December 29, 2006

Na na na na, hey hey hey, Allahu achbar

As I write this, it's just been reported that Saddam Hussein has done the fresh-air jig at the end of a rope.

To [mis]quote Macbeth, "nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it." Good riddance.

December 28, 2006

Passages of note

My parents' PC is seven years old and seriously underpowered. They have high-speed Internet rather than dialup, which is its one saving grace. But the consequence is that I don't blog as frequently as I would like to. It's too much of a pain. Nonetheless, I always like to note the passage of someone whom I find personally significant for one reason or another. Better late than never.

James Brown (1933-2006)

Notwithstanding his many arrests, multiple marriages and other personal problems, Brown didn't earn the nickname "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" for nothing. A James Brown CD in my personal library was the "gateway" to other funk acts such as Kool and the Gang, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Barry White on the one hand; and more mainstream R&B such as Al Green and the Four Tops on the other.

The world is a less funky place due to his passing, and that's a shame.

Gerald Ford (1913-2006)

At 93, Ford was the longest-lived President of the United States, and the last living one of whom I had no personal memory, being too young to follow the news and international politics any time prior to the Carter administration. From everything I've heard of him, he was an otherwise unremarkable President, other than the fact that it was his job to pick up the pieces of the Nixon era (and the unique circumstance of his presidency, in that he was never elected to the office of Vice-President or President). Still, he served his country with integrity even if he wasn't a legend in his own time, and it's always sad to see a world leader pass into history.

December 23, 2006

Living in an Amish paradise

I went to school in Waterloo, Ontario, only a few miles away from the heart of Old Order Mennonite country. The local culture had me hooked pretty much from the first time I spotted a horse and buggy. There are relatively few places in the world where you can find a hitching post or stall standing outside a modern supermarket - or, as often as not, find it occupied as its owner shops for prepackaged groceries inside, while dressed in a long black dress, bonnet, and . . . Nikes. As I knew of the Old Order Mennonites and Amish only as a sect that had eschewed modern technology, the seemingly selective morality the Amish practiced in their day-to-day lives fascinated me for the eight years that I lived there.1

In the aftermath of the Amish school shootings on October 2 in Lancaster County, I heard an interview on CNN with Donald B. Kraybill, a sociology professor at nearby Elizabethtown College and expert on Amish culture, give a background interview and discuss how the community would cope with the tragedy. Later the same day, I came across an article by Howard Rheingold from the January 1999 issue of Wired, also citing Kraybill, about the adoption by some Amish of cellular telephones.2 This article suggested that there was actually a (more or less) logical rationale behind the selective rejection of technology. I decided to find Kraybill's book The Riddle of Amish Culture3 and finally learn something about this paradoxical sect.

December 06, 2006

The CUSA Thought Police win this round

Under the leadership of Menard, CUSA moves forward!

I halfway figured it was a foregone conclusion anyway, but after five hours of debate last night, in the name of women's rights, CUSA voted to pass the infamous "anti-choice" motion limiting the rights of pro-life groups to assemble and speak on the Carleton University campus by denying them equal access to resources. The vote was 26-6, with one abstention and one absence.

I was not present myself (didn't realize until later that the meeting was open to the public), but Suzanne of Big Blue Wave and Deborah Gyapong were. You can read their reports of the night here and here, respectively.

The young-adult pastor of my church was also in attendance (along with a few of our Carleton students). He stayed a little longer than Suzanne or Deborah, and so I heard from him something about the presentation made by Don Hutchison, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. As a former constitutional lawyer himself, he shredded every argument CUSA could make in favour of the motion, and chastised them for taking it upon themselves to interpret the law (which, he argued, was the purview of the higher courts).

Ironically, Hutchison also said that during the 1970s, as a lawyer, he had argued in favour of of pro-choice groups receiving CUSA funding on the basis of freedom of speech. Too bad the present incarnation of the student Politburo has their heads too far up their "collective" rear (pun intended) to return the courtesy.

Another part of the discussion supposedly hinged on CUSA's defining themselves as a "political organization" rather than a student government. Someone asked how he/she could opt out of membership in the "political organization" and having to pay fees to it. That didn't go over too well with the CUSA people. (So much for "pro-choice"!)

All in all, this has been a disgusting episode, and one that current students, employees, and alumni of Carleton University should be ashamed of. In the name of "free speech," CUSA has presumed to define the limits of what you can say about abortion as a dues-paying club member. You can now say that a woman should carry a baby to term, or that abortion on demand is immoral, but if you dare to suggest that it should be illegal, the Kampus KGB will be coming for you.

I have no doubt that the long, public debate was nothing but lip service to public opinion; the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion. Meanwhile, of course, their PR machine has been vilifying the pro-life movement, calling it "discriminatory," "violence against women," and 'hate speech," and drawing comparisons to the KKK and other white-supremacy groups; CUSA president Shawn Menard actually falsely accused the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (which sponsors the Genocide Awareness Project and employs pro-life debater Jojo Ruba) of Holocaust denial. This bit of slander has resulted in the threat of legal action against CUSA, and I hope CCBR carries through with that.

Anyway, on that sour note, I'm officially wrapping up my commentary on this particular issue and moving on, though if anything interesting further transpires, I might come back to it now and again.

Note on the image: The original propaganda poster shows Stalin pointing to a map of Russia, which I have replaced with an aerial photo of the Carleton campus. The original motto was along the lines of, "Under the leadership of Stalin, Communism moves forward!" I have used Carleton's official motto, "Ours the Eternal Task" - or, at least, as close as I could get using Babelfish's English-to-Russian filter, as I don't speak Russian. (The trick was to find an English equivalent that translated into Russian, then back into English halfway sensibly. The closest I came was "We own the eternal task.")

December 04, 2006

CUSA president slanders; CCBR pushes back


I guess the folks at the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) heard Carleton University Student Association (CUSA) president Shawn Menard on CFRA last Wednesday morning, when he told radio host Mark Sutcliffe that the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) was, "as you know, a group that talks about the fact that the Holocaust did not happen."

This, I'm sure, came as a great surprise to Stephanie Gray and Jojo Ruba: the latter referenced the reality of the Holocaust several times during the October 30 debate on abortion on campus, including his closing remarks about Corrie ten Boom, the sole survivor of a family that helped hide Jews from the Nazis and was sent to the camps for it. Indeed the very premise of GAP, which calls abortion a modern genocide, relies on the fact that the Holocaust (and other genocides) actually happened.

Well, Menard's slander didn't go over very well with Gray. Big Blue Wave has obtained a press release from CCBR demanding "an unambiguous retraction and apology." Specifically, they demand that such a be submitted to CFRA and the Charlatan student paper, and posted on CUSA's own Web site. If this doesn't happen by this Friday, it'll be lawyer time.

Man. I thought that one way or another I'd be blogging about something else by tomorrow.

December 02, 2006

CUSA gears up the damage-control machine

CUSA needs to remember the First Rule of Holes: When you're in one, stop digging.

This week, there was a blogstorm and a small media frenzy concerning a motion proposed at the November 21 meeting of the Carleton University Student Association, affirming that CUSA is "pro-choice" and banning "anti-choice" groups from using CUSA resources. This came about after an October 30 debate sponsored by Carleton Lifeline, on the question: "Should elective abortion be illegal?" Some campus womyn [sic] were upset that their "safe space" was violated by having someone disagree with them. Hence this motion has been, rightly in my opinion, viewed as a restriction on freedom of speech on Carleton campus.

Since then, various CUSA members and sympathizers have been active in the media and the blogosphere trying to do damage control. Here's a look at some of the more common talking points.

November 29, 2006

Carleton update

Since my post on Monday night about CUSA's motion to ban all so-called "anti-choice" clubs from Carleton University's campus, the blogosphere has started to swarm. And the media is starting to pay attention, too: yesterday, the story broke on the Web sites of the CBC and the Ottawa Citizen. Today, the other Ottawa paper, the Sun, carried the story, as did local news/talk radio station CFRA, and in the West the Edmonton Journal picked up the Citizen's story.

I have yet to read a single blogger either praising or defending CUSA. Two student newspapers so far have reported on the motion, and both have written editorials that sharply criticize CUSA and defend the free market of ideas. One of these papers is Carleton's own Charlatan, and the other is UWO's Gazette (along with a pointed editorial cartoon). Finally, even Focus on the Family is starting to pay attention.

Whether CUSA passes this motion or not, the very fact they tabled such a discriminatory and anti-intellectual motion to begin with means that they've already lost. The only thing they have going for them is the fact that student politics make no difference to anyone else.

I think Tuesday night is going to be interesting.

November 27, 2006

Big Brother U.

Maybe the administration at Carleton University should stop moaning about their abysmal Maclean's ranking this year, if these are the kind of bubbleheads their academic program is turning out.

A motion was recently tabled to be voted on at the December 5 meeting of the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA)1. Although I could find no primary source for the motion on CUSA's own Web site, according to the Charlatan student paper, it affirms that CUSA is pro-choice and moves that "no CUSA resources, space, recognition or funding be allocated for anti-choice purposes" (full story). This motion bears a bland, Orwellian moniker: "Motion to Amend Discrimination on Campus Policy."

Apparently last month's abortion debate was the catalyst for this instance of academic fascism. The motion was made by vice-president Katy McIntyre on behalf of the campus Womyn's [sic] Centre, because

McIntyre said she received complaints after Lifeline organized an academic debate on whether or not elective abortion should be made illegal.

“[These women] were upset the debate was happening on campus in a space that they thought they were safe and protected, and that respected their rights and freedoms,” said McIntyre.

Oh, those poor, helpless womyn [sic]! Perhaps CUSA should move to purchase fainting couches for public areas. Then when these delicate flowers swoon after having their tender ears violated by horrible, dangerous ideas they don't like, they'll at least have somewhere to lie down and recover. Then, after their fainting spell has passed, perhaps someone of stouter constitution can explain that if they want a "safe space" where their own prejudices are protected, they shouldn't be on a university campus, which at least gives lip service to the free exchange of ideas.

In Orwell's 1984, the "Ministry of Peace" dealt in war and the "Ministry of Truth" dealt in lies and propaganda. Similarly, the brownshirts in CUSA and the Womyn's [sic] Centre, in the name of tolerance and diversity, display their intolerance for diversity of opinion. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so highly lauded by Tracy Davidson and Jeannette Doucet in the aforementioned abortion debate, guarantees "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression . . . freedom of peaceable assembly; and freedom of association" (Constitution Act, I.2). In other words, on Canadian soil, you have the right to be pro-life, to say you are pro-life, to attend pro-life meetings, and join pro-life organizations. While technically a university is not a government institution, it receives government funding, and for that reason should protect the freedom of students on campus. And since the student union receives fees from students, it should respect the rights of even the pro-life students it supposedly represents.

In the meantime, however, CUSA earns itself the DIM BULB du jour. Katy McIntyre, in particular, receives her very own 15-Watt Special for bringing this asinine motion to the table. I'd like to be able to excuse her for an isolated "blonde moment," but since she also thinks that crappy kindergarten art created by adult university students is "fabulous," I'm guessing she's probably a full-time airhead.


1 Oh well, there's always this footnote: Or perhaps that should be LCUSA (Last Chance U. Student Association)?

November 24, 2006

KJV monkey-boy update

Probably my favourite TV show of all time is the science-fiction program Babylon 5. In one second-season episode, the newly promoted Commander Ivanova, is given a diplomatic assignment: deal with the escalating violence amongst the Drazi that inhabit the station. Every five years, the aliens draw coloured scarves from a barre - some green, some purple. Thus divided, the two factions beat each other senseless for a year for dominance. When Ivanova tries to figure out the rationale behind this completely arbitrary distinction, she is told only, "Green must fight purple, purple must fight green. Is no other way." "Just my luck," she says, "I get stuck with a race that speaks only in macros."

I frequently feel the same way as Cmdr. Ivanova when dealing with KJV-onlyists.

The Crustier Curmudgeon

Time to come clean. I'm seeing another blog behind the Crusty Curmudgeon's back.

Well, not really. But not long after went online, I registered - partly because, I was thinking, at some point I would probably want to migrate to my own domain and perhaps use WordPress for the blog, so working with it on a regular basis struck me as a good idea. But since Blogger also has the occasional (and not-so-occasional) maintenance difficulties, I was also wanting to create a "backup" blog where I could keep working even when Blogger wasn't.

Hence The Crustier Curmudgeon was born. It's still a bit of a mess, because it was intended mainly as a secondary repository for blog posts, not yet for public consumption. But following (I assume) some sort of software upgrade on the hosting site, it seems that it inadvertently got switched from a private blog to a public one, and posts have started showing up on search engines. Inevitably, this means comments have also started showing up.

So it's time to bring CC2 out of the closet, as it were. If you prefer reading blogs on WordPress to Blogger, I'll be spending some time over the next little while making the interface presentable. I'm only using the default template on WordPress because even if they did allow customization of the templates, I don't know enough PHP yet to make it look anything like this one. I'm also not going to be rewriting posts to customize them for a particular platform (i.e. rewriting styles, links, etc.). So while the Blogger blog still remains the "official" one, as of now I'm actively maintaining (and watching comments on) both.

Pardon the dust.

November 22, 2006

And now . . . this - Nov. 22, 2006

See if I eat toad-in-the-hole ever again

A SPICY sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.

The sausages will now have to be labelled Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages to avoid any confusion among customers.

[Full Story]

Another bit of marketing brilliance is brought to us by the same lawsuit-shy people who gave us "WARNING: This costume does not enable flight or super strength," and "WARNING: Coffee is hot."

The inevitable comparison:

November 21, 2006

Letter to a skeptic

During his sermon this Sunday evening, our senior pastor mentioned that our church receives piles of emails denouncing Christianity's claim to exclusivity. As it happened, two weeks earlier I had received a copy of one such email, forwarded by another pastor in the hopes that I would be able to formulate an appropriate answer.

The message was articulate, though I can imagine that many such emails are not. But it reflects the sort of mushy-headed, relativist thinking that tends to hound truth claims these days. I won't copy the original email to this post, since I don't have the author's permission. Basically he had visited our church's Web site and was provoked to criticize the supposed intolerance that comes from a particular religion claiming an exclusive path to God. He called such thinking "ethnocentrism" and "supreme spiritual narcissism and arrogance," that such a mindset leads to such actions as the abuses in the residential school system, and is the same kind of thinking that drives radical Islam.

Here is my response (edited to remove personal details).

November 19, 2006

And now . . . this - Nov. 19, 2006

There's never a Sith Lord around when you need one

With their vast intergalactic knowledge and ability to harness the Force, the task of convincing UN officials to recognise their cause should be a walkover for a pair of Jedi Knights.

But self-proclaimed Jedis Umada and Yunyun, better known as John Wilkinson and Charlotte Law, have adopted a more conventional approach in their pursuit of recognition - delivering a protest letter.

The unconventional pair are calling for the UN to acknowlegde what has become Britain's fourth largest 'religion' with 390,000 followers.

No, really.

But wait! There's more:

Umada, 27, and Yunyun, 24, both from London, want the [U.N. International Day of Tolerance] to be renamed the "Interstellar Day of Tolerance" to reflect millions of people across the globe who have chosen to follow the Jedi code as a religion and truly reflect social diversity.nbsp;.nbsp;.nbsp;.

"We therefore are calling upon the United Nations Association to change November 16 to the UN Interstellar Day of Tolerance, to reflect the religious make-up of our twenty-first century civilisation.

"Tolerance is about respecting difference where ever [sic] it lies, including other galaxies. Please don't exclude us from your important work. May the Force be with you."

In the 2001 UK Census 390,000 people listed their religion as Jedi Knight making it the fourth biggest belief in the country.

There are also an estimated 70,000 Jedi knights in Australia, 53,000 in New Zealand and 20,000 in Canada.

[Full Story]

In the UK, 390,000 people got beat up a lot as kids and now live in their parents' basements.

(H/T: Hot Air.)

November 14, 2006


In the first centuries of the Church, Christians used to rescue and raise infants that had been abandoned to die by the pagans of Rome. This story from England just goes to show how far we've fallen in 1600 years:

The Church of England has broken with tradition dogma by calling for doctors to be allowed to let sick newborn babies die.

Christians have long argued that life should preserved at all costs - but a bishop representing the national church has now sparked controversy by arguing that there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die.

And the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who is the vice chair of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council, has also argued that the high financial cost of keeping desperately ill babies alive should be a factor in life or death decisions.

[Full Story]

The early faithful used to save the lives of babies because those babies were made in the image of God. They were worth saving because they had intrinsic worth. God alone, not the paterfamilias who left the child outside in the cold, had the right of life or death. What it is determines what we may do with it.

Today, it's bad enough that "ethicists" like Princeton philosopher Peter Singer apply their own man-made calculus to decide who lives and who dies. But for the church, which claims to have the message of life, to advocate death? That's downright repugnant.

(H/T: Centuri0n.)

November 13, 2006

No "honour" killing in Canada, please

I occasionally listen to Dennis Prager's radio program thanks to the magic of the Internet, and I've heard him speak on occasion of how while Judeo-Christian ethics centre around absolute standards of right and wrong, the Muslim ethic is based on the subjective idea of "honour." He writes, for example:

In much of the Arab and Muslim world, "face," "shame" and "honor" define moral norms, not standards of good and evil. That is the reason for "honor killings" - the murder of a daughter or sister who has brought "shame" to the family (through alleged sexual sin) - and the widespread view of these murders as heroic, not evil.

That is why Saddam Hussein, no matter how many innocent people he had murdered, tortured and raped, was a hero to much of the Arab world. As much evil as he committed, what most mattered was his strength, and therefore his honor.

(Prager, "The Case for Judeo-Christian Values: Hate Evil", Jewish World Review, Mar. 1, 2005)

As if to illustrate the point, here's a news story that happened this weekend (while I was busy writing up Saturday's Remembrance Day post and some other offline work):

The Supreme Court of Canada declined an invitation on Thursday to consider whether Muslim cultural and religious beliefs in "family honour" should be taken into account as justification for receiving a lighter sentence for killing an unfaithful wife.

The court refused to hear the appeal of Adi Abdul Humaid, a devout Muslim from the United Arab Emirates, who admitted to stabbing Aysar Abbas to death with a steak knife on a visit to Ottawa in 1999.

In an application filed in the Supreme Court, Humaid's lawyer, Richard Bosada, argued Humaid was provoked by his wife's claim she cheated on him, an insult so severe in the Muslim faith it deprived him of self-control.

[Full Story]

Humaid was originally convicted of first-degree murder in 2002. My question at this point is: Whose bright idea was it to appeal this case? In its judgment, Hamaid's defense of "provocation" (that the circumstances would cause any "ordinary person" to similarly lose control) lacked an "air of reality." The evidence favoured the conclusion that the murder was premeditated, not committed in a shame-induced robo-rage, because Captain Caveman had certain ulterior motives:

The Ontario Crown, in a Supreme Court court submission, maintains the murder was pre-meditated and Humaid, who had an affair with the family maid, wanted out of his marriage. Humaid also stood to gain financially from the death of his wife, a successful engineer who controlled most of the family wealth.

I suspect that "no air of reality" is court-speak for "Don't waste my time with this idiocy." More nuggets of wisdom:

[Humaid's lawyer Richard] Bosada said the high court should take on the case to provide guidance to lower courts "in this multi-cultural Canadian society."

Excuse me? What additional guidance did the lower courts need? Murder = go to jail for a very long time seems pretty straightforward to me. It's to the court's credit that multicult didn't trump common sense. Islam is not a defense.

An American scholar, Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, testified at Humaid's trial that many Islamic societies permit men to punish wives suspected of adultery and sometimes even kill them. Under Islamic law, punishment for adultery is usually flogging or stoning, Ayoub said. In some Muslim cultures and rural areas, unfaithful women can be killed.

The above atavistic vomit, faithful readers, is a major reason why I repeat to myself frequently: "I am very happy that Sharia law has not been codified in Ontario in any way, shape, or form." "Islamic law" is antithetical - if not downright hostile - to a free and democratic society, and there is no place for it in Canada.

Enjoy prison, barbarian.

November 11, 2006

Lest we forget

Today is Remembrance Day. This year it falls a week before the 90th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest fights in the history of warfare.

The objective at the Somme was to break through the German lines on the Western front, along a 25-mile-long line north and south of the Somme River in northern France. The Allies also hoped to draw German forces away from Verdun.

Action began on July 1, 1916, following five days of artillery barrage. The British had also dug ten mines underneath the German position and laid tons of explosives, and ten minutes before the attack, the first of these was detonated. (The spectacular explosion of the first, the Hawthorn Ridge mine, was captured on film [.MOV].) At 7:30 am, British troops began advancing across no man's land behind a rolling barrage. But when they reached the German position, they discovered that five days of bombardment had not killed as many of the enemy as anticipated, and the Germans inflicted heavy losses on Allied troops. The first day of fighting was largely a failure: Virtually none of the first-day objectives were met, and there were 19,240 dead amongst nearly 57,500 casualties - to date, still the bloodiest day in British military history.

The Somme was also notable for the introduction of the tank to ground warfare. It made its debut at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on September 15. It was hoped that tanks would give the British a tactical advantage (as the armoured machines had little to fear from barbed wire or light-weapons fire), but the reality was far different. Of the 49 tanks available, only 21 were actually operational by the time they were deployed. They suffered frequent mechanical breakdowns and were likely to become bogged down on the battlefield, making them vulnerable to artillery fire. But this early in the war, they did confer a significant psychological advantage, because the Germans didn't have them.

The battle ended on November 18, 1916, when the weather had turned too cold to continue with the campaign. It had been a battle of attrition: the Allies suffered 625,000 casualties, including 146,431 dead; Canadian divisons had nearly 25,000 men killed, wounded, or missing. At the same time, they inflicted approximately the same number of casualties on the German army, which was more experienced, and these losses had greater military value than the fresh volunteers in the Allied trenches. But in the end, the battle was inconclusive: after more than four months of fierce battle and more than a quarter of a million deaths on both sides, the Allies gained virtually no territory, the greatest advancement being only five miles.

The torch: be yours to hold it high. / If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields.

This Remembrance Day post is dedicated to Cpl. Glen Arnold and Pte. David Byers, two soldiers from my home town of Espanola, Ontario, who were amongst the four Canadians killed by a suicide bomber on September 18 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. In a war with such light casualties, it is a hard thing for a small town to lose two of its finest in a single day.

The current war hits home here in Ottawa, as well, as three of our church family are currently serving in Afghanistan. Please pray for them, that they may remain safe and remain faithful during their deployment.

And thank you to all - whether in active service or out - who have served this country and the cause of freedom.

November 10, 2006

Jack Palance (1919-2006)

Legendary Western tough-guy actor Jack Palance died today at the age of 87.

Looking over Palance's filmography on IMDb, I'm surprised that for such a well-known and ubiquitous actor, I've seen very little of his work. Shane, of course (Palance's Jack Wilson is the outlaw). And I was a regular viewer of Ripley's Believe It or Not! in the early 80s. (But I never saw City Slickers. Believe it . . . or not.)

It's fitting that Palance should pass away on the day before Remembrance Day - not only was he a talented actor, but a decorated serviceman who served with the Army Air Corps in WWII. His characteristic gaunt look was the result of injuries he suffered when he bailed out of a burning B-24 on a training mission.

And who can forget his Oscar acceptance "speech" in 1992 when, at a loss for words, he just dropped to the floor and started doing one-armed push-ups? Right now, Death is nursing his wounds. Rest in peace, Jack.

This oughta be a scream

This just in, from the Grope and Flail:

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, fresh from leading Democrats to victory in both Houses of Congress, has been recruited to inspire Canada's Liberals in their own efforts to find their way back from the political wilderness.

Dr. Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, will deliver the keynote speech at the Liberal Party's leadership convention this month, just as the Liberals are trying to emulate the Democrats' efforts to rebuild their shaken party organization.

[Full Story]

"We're going to Alberta and Saskatchewan and Manitoba! And we're going to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland! And then we're going to Ottawa, to take back the White House! I mean the Centre Block! Yeearghh!"

Don't we have enough domestic crazy, without having to import it from the States?

November 04, 2006

Should elective abortion be illegal? Part the last

While any debate that includes a good cross-examination section is always rhetorically interesting, my personal favourite part is always the Q&A section at the end. Here is an opportunity for anyone in the audience, if he can get a few seconds at the microphone, to insert himself into the debate. Normally I have a question after hearing two sides go at it for an hour or two. However, on Monday night, by the time I put my head up after my note-taking, there were already half a dozen others already lined up behind each mike. Since I already knew that questions were to be limited to eight, there was no chance I would be able to ask mine. What I wanted to ask was this, addressing Tracy or Jeannette:

"You have continually argued that elective abortion should be legal on the basis of existing law, specifically, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, laws change, and the Charter was not the law of the land before 1982. How would you have argued your case in 1981?"

My intent, of course, would have been twofold: First, to expose the circularity of the pro-choice argument in this respect. At least two of the abortion debates I have attended have appealed to existing law, essentially saying, "It's legal, get over it." But what if existing law, or its interpretation with respect to abortion rights, is wrong? Second, my intent would have been to pull the rug out from under Tracy or Jeannette and compel them to argue in different categories than they had been, to see if they had any substance behind their position. I also know Jojo well enough to have confidence he would have known where I was going with this.

November 03, 2006

More random nonsense

Using the self-serve checkout machine at Loblaw's, it takes three college-age women five minutes to buy two bananas and an apple.

Kent Hovind convicted of tax fraud

In Pensacola yesterday, creation "scientist," tax evader, and all-round kook "Dr." Kent Hovind, who also goes by the nickname "Dr. Dino," was convicted of 58 counts of tax-evasion-related offenses, including failure to pay more than $800,000 in employee taxes. His wife was also convicted of 44 counts of avoiding income-reporting requirements.

Hovind has refused to pay employee taxes, claiming that he and his employees are working for God, and therefore exempted from taxes. He does not withhold tax, and he pays his employees in cash.

Over the course of his three-week trial (with a one-week interruption in the middle), Hovind hit a number of the standard tax-evader/conspiracy-nut arguments:

  • He argued that he is not a citizen of the United States, nor a resident of Florida, and therefore not subject to taxation.
  • He claimed zero income.
  • He refused to provide a tax number to churches that engaged him as a speaker.
  • He paid his staff in "cash gifts" to avoid reporting it.
  • One employee testified that he had been instructed to refuse any mail addressed to "KENT HOVIND" in all capitals, because that signified that the government had created a "corporation" in that name, and by accepting the mail, Hovind was accepting all the responsibilities that went with it.
  • He initiated a frivolous lawsuit against an IRS agent because she could not make an appointment at the time he suggested.
  • His lawyer asked irrelevant questions of witnesses - for example, asking one IRS agent whether his family paid his "fair share" of taxes - until he was told off by the judge.
  • The defense called no witnesses, claiming the prosecution had not established its case.

Frankly I'm surprised that he didn't complain that the American flag in the courtroom had a gold fringe on it, and therefore it was an admiralty court and had no right to try him. There are a number of stalling tactics like that, which tax evaders use in court and the rest of the world laughs at. Some of these simps will argue that if their name appears in ALL CAPS on court documents, it is a "nom de guerre" and proves the State has declared them an enemy, or a "trust corporation," or a "fictitious entity." (All-capital words or names are an old convention for emphasis in legal documentation; typewriters could only do so much.) Also, as far as I know, Hovind did not argue that income taxes were illegal because the Sixteenth Amendment was never ratified.

What Hovind did do, however, was deliberately move his money around in ways that avoided the reporting requirements that the banks are bound by (for example, they must report funds transfers greater than $10,000). If Hovind wasn't doing something illegal (as he claims), why try to hide it?

A few weeks ago, just as this trial started, I attended a church retreat with our Young Adults. The guest speaker was a seminary professor of my acquaintance, who spoke that weekend on ethics. After sessions on living in the world as salt and light, the right use of money, or whether it's right to judge, we wrapped up with a talk from 1 Pet. 3:13-17:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.

In other words: Maybe if you are a faithful Christian, you will be persecuted. If you are, make sure your conscience is clean. If you are to suffer, make sure it is for something good, and not for being a jerk.

Kent Hovind will soon be suffering in jail, not for Christ's sake, but because he's a jerk.

Random nonsense

Here’s a new kitchen safety tip I just learned.

If you need to reheat a cup of coffee that you bought at Second Cup (or Starbucks if you’re a silly American), do not put the paper cup and dome lid in the microwave and leave it unattended for more than, say, 30 seconds.

The outcome is, shall we say, unexpectedly spectacular. If I had a digicam, I’d post a picture of the aftermath.

But at least the coffee still tastes OK . . . what’s left of it.

Should elective abortion be illegal? Part 4

With part four of this summary, I come to the closing statements in last Monday's debate between Jojo Ruba and two pro-choice advocates on the above question. Without further ado, therefore, here they are. This time, Tracy and Jeannette went first.

November 02, 2006

Should elective abortion be illegal? Part 3

This is third post summarizing and paraphrasing a debate on the question, "Should elective abortion be illegal?" that was held on Monday night at Carleton University between Jojo Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, and a team consisting of Tracy Davidson of Planned Parenthood Ottawa and Jeannette Doucet of Canadians for Choice. Following the cross-examination period (posted yesterday) was a rebuttal period of ten minutes. Again, Jojo spoke first.

November 01, 2006

Should elective abortion be illegal? Part 2

Yesterday I started posting a summary of a debate held Monday between Jojo Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform. I began with the opening statements. The second major section of the debate was the cross-examination, in which the sides each had six minutes in which to grill their opponent. Jojo was the first to cross-examine.

Here is my summary and paraphrase of the cross-examination. Unfortunately, my notes here are very sketchy. This is partly because of the unstructured nature of cross-examination; there were times when the discussion was simply flying too quickly to follow in writing. I was also still filling in some of the details of the opening statements when it started. Usually I'm pretty good about remembering a few points while I'm catching up on others, but not in this case. I've noted the gap in my records, and since I also have no specific recollection of the discussion at that point, I have decided it is better to leave it blank than inadvertently put words in anyone's mouth.

October 31, 2006

Debate: Should elective abortion be illegal? Part 1

That is the question that was to be argued at a debate I attended last night. Taking the affirmative was a close friend of mine, Jojo Ruba, who a few years ago left Ottawa and moved out West to take up pro-life advocacy full-time with an organization called the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. Tracy Davidson, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, took the negative position, along with a last-minute partner, Jeannette Doucet, a volunteer spokesman with Canadians for Choice. The debate was held at the Azraeli Theatre on the campus of Carleton University, and moderated by a late replacement from the local civil liberties association, which takes no official position on abortion (and hence he admitted he had no axe to grind with either side). Considering that he joined the debate at the last minute (due to the scheduled moderator becoming ill) and had no experience moderating debates, I thought he did all right.

Over the next few days I want to incrementally post a summary of the debate, section by section, followed by my comments. This is mainly for time's sake, but also in the hope that a few extra days of contemplation might give me something additional to reflect upon. My comments will more than likely focus mainly on the pro-choice side, simply because my approach to the abortion question is essentially the same as Jojo's, and if I have nothing more to say than "Me too," there's little point in saying anything at all.

It's a hell of a horror show

Here's my "Hallowe'en special." Enjoy!

Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, near Dallas, Texas has put on a haunted house every Hallowe'en since 1990. But instead of coffins, skeletons, and bats, their house of horrors features domestic violence, abortion, AIDS, the occult, and suicide. This is the infamous "Hell House" - an evangelistic tool meant to warn the unsaved about the evils of modern society and the hellish consequences of making bad moral choices while rejecting Jesus. Thousands go through the Hell House every year, and the church has sold additional kits to churches all over the U.S.

In 1999, the church made headlines when that year's Hell House featured a school shooting. This was regarded as insensitive, following as closely as it did on the heels of the Columbine massacre only six months earlier. This inspired documentarian George Ratliff to make a short documentary, titled The Devil Made Me Do It about the production. On the basis of this film, the Pentecostal church allowed Ratliff to film a feature-length documentary about the attraction, giving him full access to every aspect of the production. Hell House is that documentary.

October 27, 2006

And now . . . this - Oct. 27, 2006

Good thing he wasn't a drunk, too

A dead man had one final earthly act before moving on.

Fire officials said the six-hundred pound man was in being cremated when his body fluids were too much for the oven.

The body fluids seeped out onto the floor and ignited causing a fire at the Garner Funeral Home in Salt Lake City.

"Those fluids can be very flammable," said Scott Freitag of the Salt Lake City fire department. "Sort of like a grease fire." . . .

The crematorium is back in business and the funeral director said they'll notify the family to assure them their loved one wasn't harmed.

[Full Story]

Wasn't harmed? Come again? "No, ma'am, he's OK, we just spread some salt on the floor and swept him up, no problem, it's not even slippery or nothing."

October 19, 2006

OK, by popular demand

Cindy and others have opined that I have derelicted my duty by ignoring an influential booklist. And they'd be right. So here is my take on "The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals" as judged by Christianity Today. I'll follow Cindy's lead and comment only on the ones I have read.

October 14, 2006

Why I hate silly quizzes

Well, actually, I love them, as long as they affirm my preconceived notions. This one didn't:

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Reformed Evangelical






Roman Catholic




Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Interestingly, just by redoing the quiz, but eliminating the "mildly agree/disagree" categories, and reserving the middle option for questions that were ambivalent or loaded, I did manage to score 86% Reformed Evangelical, 79% Fundamentalist, and only 71% Wesleyan. This isn't just the answer I want, it's what I know to be true by what I affirm. I attribute the skewed results above to ambiguities in the questions themselves. Do I believe "God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him"? Of course; only I mean something different by it than a Wesleyan would. Is it true that "[t]he gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us"? Absolutely, although in the former case, the Holy Spirit is not the exclusive assurance of salvation, and in the latter, I wouldn't use the language of "surrender" that is common in Holiness circles.

Still, it's fun to try and figure out why a particular quiz doesn't give you the answers you expect, especially when you know better.

(H/T to my friend Brandt for bringing it to my attention.)

October 11, 2006


I just finished doing a little bit of routine maintenance to my sidebar: deleting dead links, updating the names of blogs that have "rebranded," that sort of thing. I've also added a few new blogs to the blogroll.

All things Michelle

I haven't had any specifically politically oriented blogs in the blogroll yet (though La Shawn is pretty close). But in recent months I've been reading more and more of Michelle Malkin, and quite enjoying her approach to the issues.

Malkin is also "boss" of the group blog Hot Air, home of the daily vodcast Vent.

Loons on parade

This summer, when I was writing my critique of a few 9/11 conspiracy "documentaries," I came across a blog titled Screw Loose Change. Originally devoted to answering the dubious claims of the viral movie Loose Change, it's since become a more general clearinghouse for debunking 9/11 denial in all its forms. Plus, it's vastly entertaining reading, especially if you follow conspiracy theories as a hobby.

(As I write this, I have CNN tuned in to their live coverage of Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle's fatal plane crash into the side of a Manhattan high-rise. I don't like to be cynical, but how soon will it be until the moonbats start citing this as yet another example of a burning skyscraper that didn't collapse?)

Postscript: About the time it takes to write up this post. Idiots.

October 10, 2006

It's not on

A rare group photo of the Caner brothers and the Liberty debate organizers has been unearthed:

The Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, Dorothy, and the Tin Woodsman

To the left is Ergun Caner, the self-described "intellectual pit bull of the evangelical church" - revealed not as a fierce fighting dog, but a cowardly widdle puddy tat. To the right is his brother Emir, the Straw Man. Next to him is debate moderator Brett O'Donnell who, like many women, can change his mind arbitrarily at the drop of a hat. Finally, the tin man's pointy hat makes it obvious that he is none other than His Holiness, Pope Jerry Falwell himself.

September 28, 2006

So that's what that tower is all about

So I'm listening to Alex Jones this afternoon. (Yeah, yeah, I know.) I missed the exact context of the statements, but he started going on about the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. According to Jones, if you get up close, it looks like "something out of Lord of the Rings, where Sauron lives or something.

Additionally, I learned tha the "main room" of our Neo-Gothic House of Parliament has the proportions 6-6-6, Satanic rituals are held in the building, it has "demons and devils" all over it, and, of course, the ever-spooky "green roof."

Of course, I'm sure this ridiculous tirade about Canada's most prominent landmark has nothing to do with Jones' lengthy detention by Customs this June when he and his megaphone came to Ottawa to protest the Bilderberger meeting.

Here's a current picture of the Building of Evil, courtesy of the Hell - I mean, Hill Cam:

You may notice that the roof isn't so much green as it is brown, and in fact hasn't been green since it was replaced in 1997.

What a loon.

September 22, 2006

Blogger Beta

So . . . just out of curiosity, have any of my Blogger-using readers made the switch to "New Blogger" yet?

I'm intrigued by the feature set, which may stave off my (inevitable) migration to WordPress for awhile yet. On the other hand, switching over to Blogger Beta is an all-or-nothing commitment: i.e. I can't create a test blog and make sure all the kinks are worked out before committing the Crusty Curmudgeon.

*sigh* . . . So close, and yet so far.

September 19, 2006


Once again, ye swabs, 'tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

In celebration o' th' occasion, I be playin' Gilbert an' Sullivan`s Th' Seafarin' Hearties o' Penzance at work, t' general amusement.


September 07, 2006

Dim Bulb University

"Oh well, there's always Lakehead."

That was a running gag with some of my engineering classmates in my first year of school at Waterloo. Faced with difficult homework assignments that late-night collaborations couldn't crack, the mock defeatism usually elicited a chuckle. A variation on the same theme, "Oh well, there's always Arts," didn't seem so funny to me by 1992. And now, 17 years later, life imitates mockery again.

Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, recently ran an advertising campaign that justifies that old derision:titled "Yale Shmale." Its posters featured a picture of George Bush and the text "Just because you go to an Ivy League school doesn't necessarily mean you're smart."

The president of Lakehead's student union described her reaction to the campaign as "repugnance" and embarrassment on the school's behalf. In fact, the ad campaign drew such a negative backlash that the school pulled it soon after. The Web site YaleShmale now reads, "You can get a great education at Yale. You might even become President of the United States."

Apparently this ad campaign was aimed at prospective students in the Greater Toronto Area - I'm guessing, in particular, the smug liberal Bush-is-a-moron type, and probably the ones who were already turned down at Canada's other top contenders for Last Chance U., Laurentian and Carleton.

Despite the pullback of the campaign, Lakehead University president Fred Gilbert claims it was a resounding success. This is, incidentally, the same genius that instituted a campus-wide ban on Wi-Fi networking this February, based on the dubious claim that wireless Internet causes cancer. Maybe before looking like a woo-woo, he should have asked his science faculty whether the microwave frequencies used for wireless networking are ionizing (they aren't). And does the ban include cordless phones and microwave ovens, which operate at the same frequencies?

Going to an Ivy League school doesn't mean you're smart. Apparently, neither does administering a Canadian university. For his tireless campaign to make Lakehead U. look like @#$%head U., Dr. Fred Gilbert is hereby awarded the DIM BULB du jour. Congratulations!

September 06, 2006

Why I love Frosh Week

On my way to and from church on Sunday, I passed by the main bus stop at Carleton University. Sunday happened to be "move-in day" (or at least one of them) for new students.

Standing in the shelter, out of the drizzle, were a half-dozen to ten people who appeared to be students, patiently waiting for the bus to arrive. Meanwhile, plastered all over the glass of the shelter were signs reading as follows:


Immediately to the south of the shelter was a wooden barrier across the road with a "ROAD CLOSED" sign hanging on it.

Five years from now, these people are going to be working for you. Consider yourself warned.

September 04, 2006

Another one in the can

Today is the Crusty Curmudgeon's third anniversary.

The fall of 2006 also marks the tenth anniversary of my presence on the WWW, as well as roughly ten years since I started fooling around with 3D rendering and raytracing for entertainment. (In fact, the first raytraced image I created for the Web is still in use - mainly since I haven't bothered to update that page in almost five years.)

In the last few years, my graphical efforts have focused primarily on the use of The Gimp and other Photoshop-like tools to composit complex images by arranging layers of simpler elements. So I thought that for this go-around, I'd set the Gimp aside (apart from some necessary post-processing) and let the renderer do the hard work. (Raytracing, for those who aren't familiar with the term, is a method of rendering photorealistic images that simulates light rays interacting with surfaces.)

I also thought that after three years of a predominantly blue blog design, it was time to let the Crusty Curmudgeon's other "official" colour, orange, take the front seat for a year. The particular shade of blue that I use on this blog was the corporate colour of a company I worked for a few years ago. During my tenure, they "rebranded" and abandoned blue. So I gave it a new home and saved it from a life on the streets. The orange is simply a contrasting colour I chose to complement it, and I keep it around because blue and orange drives certain conspiracy nuts batty. (They don't teach the conspirinauts colour theory, I guess.)

There isn't any particular significance to the soap sculptures, except that one of my first 3D images was a model of a soap sculpture carved into my name. At the time, I was forced to wear a nametag, so I decided to "customize" it a bit.

I'm still having trouble with the image. Realistic rendering of some surfaces can be tricky - pools of water should not look like diluted milk, for example. Well, I'm learning as I go, and since all the major elements are in place, there's nothing hindering me from tweaking it to try and improve the optical properties of the water and a few other things. Also, the bullets need a bit of work, and I'm sure I'll find a few other bugs that need repairing over time, as well. (Promises, promises.)

Best of all, I didn't forget my own blogiversary for two weeks, like last year.

August 31, 2006

Nice doggy

Remember the Maine mystery beast from two weeks ago?

A mystery beast that frightened Maine residents and preyed on pets was likely a dog itself, preliminary DNA test results in the U.S. suggest.

The animal had a dog as its mother and probably father as well, said Prof. Irv Cornfield of the University of Maine.

[Full Story]

So it might be ugly and mean and strange, but chances are it's still Man's Best Friend. Maybe it's part Chinese crested.

Well spotted Fred and Brandt.

August 21, 2006

Science Fiction-Free September III

It's that time of year again, when I declare the annual moratorium on reading science fiction for a month, and instead concentrate on books that I've been neglecting or have been meaning to "get around to" for some time. Mind you, it feels a little odd to declare a month free of a genre I've read precious little of, so far, in this calendar year. I actually think this is probably the first year since I left school that I've read more non-fiction than fiction, in fact.

I've decided to limit the reading program this September to two books. This is partly because they're going to be heavy going, as you'll see. But the other reason is that my track record hasn't been all that great at meeting my reading goals. I still owe a half-dozen people the courtesy of reading the Canadian literature they recommended to me last year, when all I managed to get through was a novel and a half. So I've decided to reduce the agenda. However, I doubt that the reading load is actually any smaller. And, finally, as always, I never know what books that I have had on reserve for weeks or months, might become available suddenly, and I'm not going to give up my chance to read them just because I'm working through something else.

I think of this year's theme as "Books With Baggage." By this I mean that the philosophy of each book constitutes a major driving force in some ideology.

The first book on the list is the Quran. The ubiquitous news footage of masked extremists in the Middle East, waving Qurans in one hand and a firearm in the other, ought to make the contemporary relevance of this "holy book" rather self-evident. However much secondary material I've read on Islam, I've never read its primary source. (Imagine wanting a scholarly understanding of Christianity, and getting it only from, say, the books of Hal Lindsey!) I'll be glad to entertain suggestions of a good translation, since obviously I'll be unable to access the Quran in Arabic. If time permits, I might supplement it with some sort of "Islam for Dummies" type book, or perhaps a critical work such as Why I am Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq or The Rage and the Pride by Oriana Fallaci, a copy of which should be available to me in two or three weeks.

Second is the 1966 philosophy of history, Tragedy and Hope by Carroll Quigley. This massive tome (1300+ pages!) is a primary source for conspiracy theorists believing that there's a shadowy cabal running things: Quigley argued that the governments of the U.S. and U.K. were controlled by a small network of elitists such as the Council on Foreign Relations. Many conspiracy nuts think that Quigley, being openly approving of their goals, was confident enough of their success to proclaim the Big Conspiracy openly. (It doesn't hurt that Bill Clinton praised him as a mentor, either.) Typically, the nuts tend to go farther in their conclusions than Quigley himself did, as well. But the premise of this book has intrigued me ever since I first heard of it.

And maybe, should I manage to read all that, I'll finish off with some Canadian literature.

August 19, 2006

When churches go moonbat

Symbolism over substance from the United Church of Canada, via today's Ottawa Citizen:

Forget the bottle, use the tap.

That's the message the United Church of Canada is sending three million Canadians tied to the church after passing a motion this week to discourage the purchase of bottled water.

Church delegates at a triennial general council in Thunder Bay backed a resolution saying "water is a sacred gift that connects all life" and that "its value to the common good must take priority over commercial interests." . . .

The church isn't calling for a boycott, [social policy co-ordinator Richard] Chambers said, only asking its members to avoid buying bottled water wherever possible. . .

Mr. Chambers said there are more than one billion people on Earth who are without a clean supply of drinking water.

Mr. Chambers said the church wants the federal government to sign a United Nations convention that would recognize water as a human right as well as help provinces and municipalities upgrade their water infrastructure.

This comes from the mainline denomination that allows the ordination of practicing homosexuals, blesses homosexual "marriage," and once elected a national moderator, Bill Phipps, who denied the divinity of Jesus, the Resurrection, and the afterlife. But God forbid that any church member should buy a bottle of Evian!

But how is this resolution going to help those one billion people without clean water? Rather than pass useless resolutions, if the United Church actually wants to do something about the problem, it should spend its time and resources in Africa digging wells and building water-treatment facilities, rather than making Canadians feel guilty because we have great big lakes of fresh water just lying around. (It wasn't United Church parishioners who put them there, was it?)

Meanwhile, here in Ottawa, you can receive absolution from your sins by listening to classic rock. The Church of St. John the Evangelist, a local Anglican church, is offering forgiveness for 1,000,000 CHEZ 106 Platinum VIP Club points. (By way of comparison, absolution costs 20 times as much as two Who tickets.) Even though it's a gimmick, you can never be sure whether you're supposed to take St. John's or the Irreverent Canon Garth Bulmer seriously. In 2004, they hosted a lecture by author and former Anglican priest Tom Harpur on his book The Pagan Christ, in which he argued that there was no historic evidence for Jesus' existence. Next Sunday, their bulletin says they "will celebrate Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Day at the 10:15 service."

[sigh] I think I'd rather go to the clown Eucharist; at least they know they're clowns.

August 18, 2006

Our Lady of the Hershey Squirts?

Here we go again. A chocolate factory in Fountain Valley, California, has been Marified:

Workers at a chocolate company have discovered a five-centimetre-all column of chocolate drippings they believe bears a striking resemblance to the Virgin Mary.

Since the discovery of the drippings under a vat Monday, employees of Bodega Chocolates have spent much of their time hovering over the tiny figure, praying and placing rose petals and candles around it. "I was raised to believe in the Virgin Mary but this still gives me the chills," company co-owner Martucci Angiano said as she balanced the dark brown figure in her hand during an interview Thursday.

[Full Story]

At this point, Bodega Chocolates' product list doesn't yet include Virgin Mary blobs. Maybe they're trying to figure out what confection to put in the creamy centre. Cherry fondant seems appropriate. They're sacrilicious!

August 16, 2006

And now . . . this - Aug. 16, 2006

Paging Mulder and Scully

Residents are wondering if an animal found dead over the weekend may be the mysterious creature that has mauled dogs, frightened residents and been the subject of local legend for half a generation.

The animal was found near power lines along Route 4 on Saturday, apparently struck by a car while chasing a cat. The carcass was photographed and inspected by several people who live in the area, but nobody is sure exactly what it is. . . .

For the past 15 years, residents across Androscoggin County have reported seeing and hearing a mysterious animal with chilling monstrous cries and eyes that glow in the night. The animal has been blamed for attacking and killing a Doberman pinscher and a Rottweiler the past couple of years.

[Full Story]

Be sure to check out the picture accompanying the article. It's an ugly-looking animal, all right. It'll be interesting to see what DNA tests say; it's probably just a weird canine hybrid no one has seen before.

Still . . . it's definitely one for the weirdo file. Chupacabra, watch your back; we're coming after you next.

August 13, 2006

Pods, holograms, and Antonioni

Are you sure you saw what you saw?
- Magneto, X-Men

Last fall, I saw the Michelangelo Antonioni film, Blowup, for the first time. Francis Schaeffer used this movie in one of his books as an example of good art preaching a bad worldview (in Blowup's case, existentialism).

Wanting to understand Schaeffer's argument better, I was interested in seeing the film for myself. I was expecting an intellectual film to be fairly talky and "arty". So I was quite surprised at the very visceral reaction I had, rather than the semi-disinterested, I'm-sitting-in-a-lecture one I was anticipating. In fact, Blowup fascinated me so much that I watched it through three times in the week I had it.

At the time, I had started writing a review and analysis, altlough it evetually came to nothing. (I may still revisit it in the future.) But after I spent so much time last weekend viewing grainy images of airplanes, "pods," and "flashes" in 9/11 conspiracy documentaries, Blowup was practically the first thing that came immediately to mind.

August 11, 2006

And now . . . this - Aug. 11, 2006

Think of the poor, tortured cats!

Scottish health officials are putting new restrictions on how long people can play bagpipes, because excessive use of the instrument can damage hearing.

The new guidelines suggest that pipers should play for a maximum of 24 minutes a day outside and only 15 minutes a day in a practice room, The Scotsman reported.

[Full Story]

Actually, if playing the bagpipes for more than 25 minutes a day causes hearing loss, that explains an awful lot . . .

August 09, 2006

James Van Allen (1914-2006)

James Van Allen, the nuclear physicist who discovered the belts of radiation encircling the Earth that now bear his name, died today at the age of 91.

In 1958, Van Allen designed instruments that were placed aboard Explorer I, the first American artificial satellite. These included a Geiger counter for detecting cosmic rays. Over South America, the Geiger counter registered 0 counts per second instead of the expected count of around 30. It was hypothesized that the counter was being overwhelmed by a belt of very strong radiation. The experiment continued with Explorer 3 (Explorer 2 having failed to make orbit) later the same year, and confirmed the hypothesis. The discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts is considered the first scientific discovery of the space age.

As a point of interest, Van Allen is thought by some "moon hoax" conspiracy theorists to have been part of the conspiracy, because he originally thought that the Van Allen radiation belts were too deep and too intense to be traversed successfully, but subsequently came to believe otherwise. (In typical moonbat fashion, of course, the assumption appears to be that no scientist would ever change his mind, and therefore his first statements must be the Really True one.)

And now . . . this - Aug. 9, 2006

Prenda minha cerveja e preste atenção a isto!

A Brazilian man died on Tuesday when he tried to open what police believe was a rocket-propelled grenade with a sledgehammer in a mechanical workshop on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

[Full Story]

The saying, "dumb as a bag of hammers," seems strangely apropos under the circumstances.

August 08, 2006

Reason #86208 to nuke the Dutch

A Dutch court has turned down a request to ban a political party with a paedophile agenda.

Judge HFM Hofhuis ruled that the Brotherly Love, Freedom and Diversity Party (PNVD) had the same right to exist as any other political party.

Isn't that nice. And aren't the Orwellian overtones in this political party name just great, given their origin and aims:

The PNVD was formed by three paedophiles in May, prompting outrage in Dutch society.

It seeks to lower the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12 and legalise child pornography and sex with animals. . . .

The PNVD - which has only three known members - says its aim is to break taboos and fight intolerance.

And also, as they (deliberately) don't mention, to have sex with children.

In order to take part in elections set for 22 November, the PNVD needs to submit a list of candidates and signatures of at least 30 supporters.

[Full Story]

And that list should be promptly supplied to local law enforcement. Assuming that would be legal, and I don't see why not, since in the Netherlands, practically everything else is.

(H/T: Pros Apologian.)

August 03, 2006


As a listener of shortwave radio, naturally I am generally familiar with the various conspiracy theories that have cropped up following 9/11. This is nothing unusual, as there are a lot of people who think it is impossible that any major event happens by accident and outside the purview of a big, all-controlling, shadow government that pulls the strings behind the scenes. High-profile conspirinauts such as Alex Jones, or Dave vonKleist and Joyce Riley of The Power Hour, have harped on their particular views of 9/11 constantly on their respective programs, and have released a number of documentaries espousing their particular form of moonbattery.

But after reading about Spooked911's ridiculous rabbit-cage WTC "simulation" on MoonBat Central a few weeks ago, I started surfing the Net for more information about 9/11 conspiracy theories. I was unaware that there was such a cottage industry in 9/11 conspiracy theory apart from (and farther out than) what I had heard on the radio. I also learned that many of the more notorious 9/11 conspiracy documentaries are available for on-line viewing, often with the blessing of their producers.

August 01, 2006

Whole lotta stupid goin on

Those of you who follow political blogs like Little Green Footballs or Free Republic might recall a story that made the rounds a few weeks ago from Democratic Underground (aka Moonbat Central). In one hysterical thread, a poster calling himself "spooked911" did a "science" "experiment" in which he constructed a "skyscraper" out of rabbit wire and some cement blocks, then set fire to some kerosene inside it. When it didn't collapse, Spooky claimed this "proved" that the Twin Towers could not have been brought down by an airplane crash and burning jet fuel.

In other news, I recently filled a Coke can with fuel and lit it on fire. Since it failed to launch into orbit, I have proven that rocketry is impossible, and therefore the moon landings were a hoax.

July 22, 2006

Stupid poetic justice

Well, well, well. Look who's come crawling back:

An Islamist preacher barred from Britain for his radical views has said that he had tried to join the British evacuation from Lebanon but had been turned away.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, speaking from Beirut, said he had been prevented from boarding a naval warship evacuating Britons from the chaos because he did not have a British passport.

Bakri, who lived in London until his exile last August, said he had asked British authorities to rescue him from the violence in Lebanon for the sake of his family, who are still living in Britain.

"I know controversy surrounds all the news about me, I am myself accepting my destiny. But I have the right like anybody else to look for safety," Bakri told Sky News television after being turned away from the ship on Thursday.

[Full Story]

As an Islamist radical living in London, Bakri has praised the 19 9/11 hijackers, expressed his desire to see Israel eradicated, advocated the re-establishment of the worldwide caliphate and the domination of the globe by Islam, appraised the life of an unbeliever as worthless, and generally speaking denounced the West and everything it stands for. But when he finds himself in the middle of a "hot zone" in the Middle east, suddenly the West doesn't seem all that evil, does it?

Tough darts, Omar. Either start swimming, or enjoy your jihad. Coward.

July 18, 2006

A lunchtime observation

I clipped this off my soup can this afternoon:

I don't know about you, but I find this kind of advertising strangely reassuring.

July 13, 2006

Shine on, you crazy diamond (Syd Barrett, 1946-2006)

Syd Barrett, the legendary original guitarist/vocalist of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd, died on July 7 at the age of 60.

It was Barrett who originally came up with the name The Pink Floyd; the band was originally an R&B cover outfit, so it was fitting that he coined a moniker that combined the given names of bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. As songwriter, Barrett turned the band in a more psychedelic direction; songs from this era tend to be whimsical ("Lucifer Sam"), humourous ("Arnold Layne"), or sometimes outright weird ("The Gnome").

However, Barrett's mental health deteriorated in the late 1960s as Pink Floyd's star began to rise. He was a heavy user of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, and some people believe he had a mental disorder, such as schizophrenia or Asperger Syndrome, which might have been aggravated by his chemical abuse. His behaviour became erratic and unpredictable: for example, he would stand on stage with his guitar and stare into space, or strum a single chord for the entire concert, or fiddle with his guitar's tuning. In 1967, the Floyd appeared on American Bandstand but Syd refused to move his lips to the recording of their hit "See Emily Play." He refused to answer questions in interviews, staring blankly instead. Guitarist David Gilmour was hired to replace him, and one day the band just decided not to pick Syd up on the way to a gig.

The lengthy song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," from the 1975 album Wish You Were Here, was written as a tribute to Syd Barrett. Coincidentally, after several years of seclusion, he showed up at Abbey Road Studios to pay a visit during the recording of that record: having gained weight and shaved off all his hair, the band hardly recognized him and were moved to tears. Some years later, Barrett returned to live with his mother (also deceased), reverted to using his real name (Roger) instead of the nickname "Syd," and took up painting.

Nonetheless, Barrett was an influential musician - artists as diverse as R.E.M., Dream Theater, The Who, and Smashing Pumpkins have either covered his songs or claimed inspiration from him. Syd Barrett is the poster boy for wasted talent as the consequence of a lifestyle of excess.

July 05, 2006

This just in . . .

North Korea test-launched half a dozen missiles yesterday, including Scuds and the never-before-fired Taepodong-2 missile.

Observers report seeing debris of some kind falling off the missiles shortly after launch.

The Crusty Curmudgeon wishes Kim "Nodong" Jong Il "better luck next time."

July 04, 2006


Well, hope everybody liked my Canada-coloured template, as I didn't mean to leave it up all weekend.

Honestly. If this blog were Christmas lights, they'd be up in June.

July 03, 2006

Arrivederci James Spurgeon

James Spurgeon, aka The Howling Coyote, has withdrawn from the blogosphere for personal reasons. This is unfortunate, as he is an insightful pastor, not to mention a longtime online acquaintance of mine.

One thing that disappoints me about his departure is that he has deleted his blog. I was enjoying reading his series on Galatians (being stalled in my own). Unfortunately, burning your bridges like that has another side-effect: his URL (still available in my blogroll for the moment) is now being squatted by a spam blog. Not the most graceful way to depart from cyberspace.

Don't be a stranger, James.

July 01, 2006

Bonne fête, Canada

Today is July 1: the 139th birthday of the Dominion of Canada. Here in Ottawa, that means that there is a massive street party in the vicinity of Parliament Hill, together with a couple hundred thousand of your closest friends. At some point in the day, everyone is going to get completely drenched by rain. (This has not failed to happen in my memory.) Finally, the day ends with a spectacular fireworks display over the Ottawa River and a long wait for a ride home on the bus with a few dozen of your drunk best friends.

It is my custom on Canada Day to introduce my readers (particularly my non-Canadian ones) to a Canadian patriotic song. I am a sixth-generation Canadian, and although I am Ontario born and raised, my generation is practically the first to live outside of Nova Scotia. It seems fitting, therefore, to showcase the traditional Nova Scotian folk song, "Farewell to Nova Scotia" this year. When I attended the McClare/McClair family reunion in Nova Scotia in 2000, this was one of the songs we sang around the campfire. It was ironic that so many McClares from all over the continent gathered at our point of origin and sang this song.

My recording is by the Irish Rovers (who, ironically, are based in the West); the lyrics as recorded by them are:

Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea-bound coast
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
When I am far away on the briny ocean tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?

The sun was setting in the west
The birds were singing on every tree
All nature seemed to be at rest
But alas there was no rest for me.


I grieve to leave my native home
I grieve to leave my comrades all
And my parents whom I hold so dear
And the bonnie, bonnie lass I do adore.


The drums do beat and the wars do alarm
My captain calls, I must obey
Farewell, farewell to Nova Scotia's charms
For it's early in the morning I am bound far away.


I have two brothers and they are at rest
Their arms are folded on their chest
But a poor simple sailor just like me
Must be tossed and turned in the deep dark sea.


(If you'd like to sing along, naturally the Net has a MIDI accompaniment.)

The authorship of "Farewell to Nova Scotia" is unknown. Likely it was written in the early part of the 20th century, before or during World War I. In those days, Canada was still a colony of England, and when she went to war, so did we. The song is about resentment at being shipped across the world to fight (and perhaps die) overseas without seeing the homeland again. A century later it takes on a new significance, given the migration away from the economically depressed Maritimes for the more prosperous climes of Ontario and the West.

Virtually every East Coast musician of note has recorded this song, from Anne Murray to Great Big Sea. It is said that the best recording is that of the late folk singer Stan Rogers, although I have not heard it.

Previous songs from previous Canada Days:

June 29, 2006

Jim Baen (1943-2006)

Influential editor Jim Baen, co-founder of the independent SF/fantasy publisher Baen Books, died yesterday at the age of 63. He suffered a massive stroke on June 12, and never regained consciousness.

Any serious science-fiction reader doubtless has a few books from Baen on the shelf: authors in their catalogue include Ben Bova, C. J. Cherryh, Frederik Pohl, Lois McMaster Bujold, Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Timothy Zahn.

Baen was also a leader in Web publishing, starting a subscription service called, then later a free library of dozens of novels. Science-fiction publishers have been among the first to pick up on the benefits of free and unencrypted distribution of their material on the Net, realizing that since there is no market for "teaser" excerpts and DRM-crippled books, giving away a few novels for free doesn't hurt profits in the long run; indeed, it helps improve them since people will buy what they like. Public libraries are good for business, in other words.

Jim Baen turned out some quality SF, not to mention some plain good yarns. His presence in the publishing world will be missed.

Killer irony

Mark Driscoll's take on gay Episcopalian bishop Vicky Gene Robinson is a wonderfully subtle bit of ironic commentary:

First the Episcopalians gave us V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the openly gay bishop who left his wife and kids to have sex with a man and later revealed that he had been a closet alcoholic for years. He was the obvious choice because he is just like Jesus with the minor exceptions of his beliefs and life. (Emphasis added)

The remainder of the article, by the way, is a good commentary on the sad state of American Anglicanism (which Doug Wilson terms the "Episcopalian death spiral").


June 26, 2006

Road rage

The short story has hit upon hard times in recent years as a literary form. Now basically the property of "serious" authors, it survives in the mainstream almost exclusively in the imaginative genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. (I suspect that at least part of the reason is plain old laziness: it takes work to compact a whole story into ten or so pages and still have it cohesive and well-formed. I'm not slamming novelists, it's just that they don't have to work with quite the same limitations.)

Mind you, you can't get much more mainstream than Stephen King, reputedly history's bestselling author. Throughout his career, he has continuously published collections of short fiction. I've said before that I regard him as the reigning master of the form.

So who influences the influencers? King is known as an aficionado of the seminal horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, another short story master; indeed, he is largely responsible for a revival in Lovecraft's popularity. But another influence is Richard Matheson, whose work I was recently introduced to through his 2003 collection of stories, Duel.

June 21, 2006

On the subject of Google Maps wonkiness . . .

. . . what's casting the shadow of the Stratosphere Tower on the Las Vegas Strip, since it appears that the actual tower has evaporated?

Good one, Google

It's part of my job to occasionally look up specific addresses and directions, which sometimes involves taking advantage of Google Maps for its intended purpose, not merely virtual tourism. So I noticed right off the bat that something was different: the aerial view of Ottawa has changed.

Tourists interested in visiting our beautiful nation's capital will be thrilled with the wonderful new view of Parliament Hill, the War Memorial, Majors Hill Park, and the Byward Market. Also, friends and family trying to figure out how to get to my place will love the new view.

Whose idea was this, anyway?

June 15, 2006

Lady [still] be good

There are "Sarah" people, "Billie" people, and "Ella" people. You can mark me down as a committed Ella person.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald, known as the First Lady of Song, and one of the great performers of the so-called "Great American Songbook," the repetoire of the period from 1930-50 that is widely considered the zenith of popular music composition.

A teenage runaway, Fitzgerald was singing whenever she could to make ends meet when she was discovered by bandleader Chick Webb in 1935. Her first hit was a recording of the nursery rhyme "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" in 1938. Following Webb's death in 1939, she took over as bandleader of his orchestra, pursuing a solo career a few years later. When the Verve jazz label was founded by Norman Granz in 1956, Ella was his flagship artist. Her most notable work was the eight "Songbook" albums recorded from the mid-50s to mid-60s, each showcasing the music of a notable American composer, including George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter.

Fitzgerald died of complications arising from diabetes on June 15, 1996, at the age of 79.

June 09, 2006

Maximum tinfoil headgear in Ottawa this weekend

From June 8-11, the secretive, so-called Bilderberg group is meeting in the west end of Ottawa.

Influential world leaders such as Queen Beatrix of Holland, Henry Kissinger, and David Rockefeller are meeting for the closed four-day meeting at the luxury Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata.

The high-profile membership of the "Bilderbergers" and the secret nature of their annual conference has made them fodder for conspiracy woo-woos worldwide. Indeed, the tinfoil-hat-wearing crowd has also descended on Ottawa, including Jim Tucker of American Free Press and Alex Jones - the latter supposedly being detained at the airport and interrogated for hours.

The stated purpose of the Bilderbergers is to foster good transatlantic relations: the first meeting in 1954 was convened to smooth over some latent European anti-Americanism by inviting representatives from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss the common threat of communism. While the location, guest list, and general agenda are public information, there are no minutes kept of the meetings and participants are pledged to secresy. The Bilderbergers meet in secret so as not to be unduly pressured by the media.

According to the conspiracy nuts, however, the purpose of the group could be anything from fixing commodity prices, to deciding the outcome of presidential elections, to pulling the strings of national governments to conform to the Bilderbergers' own nefarious agenda.

As it happens, a few years ago I worked at that end of town. I seem to recall that there was a pretty decent Vietnamese restaurant a few blocks from the Brookstreet, in case any of the locals want to chat up Henry Kissinger.