February 28, 2009

The campus abortion debate, and how it should be done

(Addendum [Mar. 2/09]: I see that I have a slight uptick in readership today, thanks to ProWomanProLife, JivinJehoshaphat, and jillstanek.com. Welcome! I hope to post about this debate in more detail shortly, so feel free to visit again.)

It was my pleasure last evening to attend a debate, in the Arts Building at the University of Ottawa, on the morality of abortion.

I found out about this debate only a few days before, thanks to a blog post at ProWomanProLife. Then, I almost wasn't able to go: after taking a hard fall on some ice on Thursday night, I was almost too sore to move on Friday. Meanwhile, the weather turned from nice to less nice to quite nasty in only a few hours. But by the evening, I felt limber enough to walk down to the campus - and in fact hardly noticed the soreness on the way home.

I was glad I made it out. The debaters were Stephanie Gray of The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, which she co-founded along with Jojo Ruba, and Dr. Andrew Sneddon, professor of philosophy at the U. of O. I've seen Jojo debate a number of times, so I was interested in seeing his colleague for a change. As I have noted numerous times previously, a male pro-life advocate does give any campus womyn who show up an opportunity to point out, albeit fallaciously, that since men can't get pregnant they have no business bringing their opinions to the table. When a woman takes the pro-life side, she spikes that particular gun. (I also had a chance to say hi to Stephanie briefly afterward, and she feels as well that the campus feminists are often more reluctant to beat up another woman.) And, of course, given the history of controversy over pro-life clubs in Canadian universities in recent years, there was also the possibility of some disruption, and I certainly didn't want to miss out on any train wrecks.

But no train wrecks were in evidence. The lecture hall in the Arts Building, which nominally seats 200, was packed out to overflowing. The opening and closing comments by the organizers acknowledged that a crowd of this size, eager to hear a debate, proved that abortion in Canada is not the settled issue many of its advocates claim it is. Moreover, the university was to be commended for its commitment to academic freedom by hosting the debate, and all involved for proving that it could be held civilly and respectfully. These remarks drew long and loud applause: the SMU shouters with their "symbolic action" and "personal autonomy" three weeks ago do not represent the mainstream of student thought.

Dr. Sneddon began the debate with his 20-minute opening statement. He chose to argue the case for personal bodily autonomy: he acknowledged that the unborn are fully human beings with the same moral standing as born persons. Nonetheless, if he were to need a new kidney, his mother is not morally obliged to provide him with one; similarly, since she has autonomy over her own body, she would not be morally obliged to provide her fetus with the use of her uterus. Stephanie's argument was from the humanity of the unborn: that from conception we have a genetically distinct, whole human being and by virtue of having brought him into existence, we have a responsibility to care for his basic needs. Just as we find it abhorrent when a mother neglects or even kills her young children, we should be equally abhorred when she neglects or kills her unborn children.

I wasn't sure how I liked the remainder of the format of the debate. There wasn't a rebuttal period, and instead of what I would call a proper cross-examination, one debater had eight minutes to present questions, and the other then had nine minutes to answer them. I'll note that Dr. Sneddon posed fewer questions and had all of them answered, while Stephanie posed many questions and had some answers deferred (and at least one not answered at all). The debate then ended with 5-minute closing statements and a Q&A. I made several pages of notes during the debate, and I will go into more detail about their respective arguments in future posts.

I was impressed at the even match of the two opponents. Too often, the pro-choice debater has come to the debate armed only with political rhetoric and anecdote, and the debate seems lopsided. Dr. Sneddon, on the other hand, had a well-prepared moral argument for his position that he was ready to defend - although I did not find it convincing, for reasons that I will get into later. And as professional philosophers are wont to do, he was sometimes a little more circumspect about his arguments than the situation would have demanded. In the end, I feel Stephanie won the debate by about half a length, primarily because of her greater focus, clarity, and conciseness, as well as her better preparedness to answer questions.

As much as I enjoy seeing people like Jojo, Stephanie, or Scott Klusendorf give some Planned Parenthood spokeswoman a sound drubbing, it was nice to see a more level playing field, and hence a good fair fight, last night. Kudos to University of Ottawa Students for Life for organizing this event and making it a success, and if they have another, I'll be sure to be there again.

F5 #4: Wings!

This has to be a first: I managed to finish something on this blog that I started - and on time, too.)

I love chicken wings. They are, bar none, my favourite finger food. They are my one weakness; my Achilles' heel, as it were. This year's F5 seems to be a bit of a palindrome: food followed by popular entertainment followed by popular entertainment - so it seems only appropriate to close out the month with another food post.

A few years back, when I was dropping a not inconsiderable portion of my salary at Local Heroes, a local sports bar that specializes in wings, I began to wonder, could I not do just as well myself, and for half the cost?

Thus, last summer, I regularly cooked up a batch of chicken wings and began the quest for the perfect Buffalo wing sauce. Starting with a basic mixture consisting of half a cup of Louisiana hot sauce and a couple tablespoons of melted butter, I mixed, baked, fried, ate, enjoyed, and evaluated, tweaking the recipe here and there. Finally, all that horrible, thankless kitchen slavery culminated in the following:

  • 1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce (i.e. Frank's Red Hot or equivalent)
  • 1 teaspoon habanero sauce
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk it with a fork until it is well mixed.

I use the regular variety of Frank's Louisiana hot sauce, or a generic equivalent from President's Choice that's just as good - plus it comes in really big bottles that are cheap as tap water. This is a Good Thing, since I go through a lot of it in my kitchen. If you want more heat, you can substitute Frank's Xtra Hot, but I find that makes the wings too spicy. I don't mind hot dishes by any means, but I prefer flavour to heat! (If you don't like Louisiana hot sauce at all, of course you may substitute a base of your choice. But that would be a completely different recipe, so you're on your own.) Since Louisiana sauce is based on cayenne pepper, an extra dash of cayenne adds a little more kick without altering the flavour. At one point, I had added some Tabasco sauce; later, I substituted a habanero sauce and decided I liked the nice finish it put on the mixture. I buy Grace red sauce, an inexpensive and fiery Caribbean brand that is available at regular supermarkets as well as ethnic ones.

For an interesting varation that gives your wings a nice smoky flavour, substitute a minced chipotle for the chile flakes, or a chipotle sauce for the habanero l;- or both, if you like.

I find this recipe makes just enough sauce to coat about two pounds of wings nicely. Your mileage may vary, so adjust the amounts accordingly.

Meanwhile, cook your chicken. I prefer to bread my wings, partly for the crispy coating, but mainly because the breading absorbs more sauce. Proper breading is a bit of a black art that I can't claim to have mastered. It involves dredging the meat in seasoned flour, then dipping it in an egg wash, and finally rolling it in breadcrumbs. While this seems needlessly overkill, there's a rationale behind it: breadcrumbs don't stick to meat, but flour does, and egg sticks to flour, and breadcrumbs to egg. I have a tendency to bread my fingers as much as my food, so I won't pontificate on the proper technique; whatever one you prefer. And not having a deep fryer handy, I also bake my wings. It takes longer, but is probably better for me anyway. Spread two pounds of wings out on a baking sheet covered with parchment, and bake them in the oven at 300-350 degrees for about one hour, turning them over at the half-hour point.

Finally, take the finished wings out of the oven and toss them in a mixing bowl with the sauce to coat them completely. Serve with raw veggies, ranch or blue cheese dressing, and of course your favourite beverage that rhymes with "beer."

I often close blog posts with this word, but this time I can almost promise it it: Enjoy.

February 21, 2009

Saturday in the wild: February 21, 2009

Howdy! It's time for the weekly roundup of link love: all the stuff I found fun, interesting, and generally hard to stop reading before I was finished.

I have loved the Narnia books since I first read them in the 1970s. The First Things blog On the Square posted a great piece by Matthew Alderman about The Last Battle:

Surely you remember her. She is the second-eldest of the Pevensie children, the pretty one in the family, dark-haired, tender-hearted, and occasionally cautious to the point of being a bit of a wet blanket. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she is given the representative gifts of a bow, arrows, and a magic horn that summons help wherever you might be. These gifts signify her strength, femininity, and prudence.

Yet she is conspicuously absent from the roll call of Narnian heroes we encounter in Aslan’s heavenly country. She is, Aslan says, "no longer a friend of Narnia." Susan, we remember, is excluded from heaven for growing up, for liking lipstick, nylons, and parties.

[Read Whatever Happened to Susan Pevensie?]

DJP tears the Palin family a few new orifices at Biblical Christianity over that interview their teenage daughter Bristol did after the birth of her son:

When the news came out that Palin's daughter had sinned sexually, I was glad that the Palins were not taking Obama's our-grandchild-is-a-punishment-so-kill-it approach. When Pastor Doug Wilson immediately laid responsibility for Bristol Palin's sin at her father's feet, I took issue with him at length ...and I still agree with myself! . . .

Now Governor Palin does something I can't defend, and haven't the slightest inclination to defend. Palin gives her shallow, foolish, clueless, unrepentant daughter a global microphone, and lets her strike at the heart of what Palin herself professes to believe.

Be clear: Bristol Palin has accomplished nothing of global significance in her life. Nothing has earned her the spotlight. Her mother, by contrast, is a focused, excellent, disciplined woman. What's more, her mother professes to be a Christian, and has lived a life that adorns that testimony.

The only reason Bristol Palin is in the spotlight is because she sneered at God's law regarding sexuality, was found out, and is herself the child of a famous mother.

[Read Sarah Palin's stupid mistake]

Finally, Tim Challies dug up an interesting and informative list of 10 Facebook privacy settings most people probably don't know about. I'm personally of the opinion that the best Facebook security is to not put anything up there that you wouldn't want known. Nonetheless, I've made some adjustments to my account after reading this.

And speaking of social networking, I'm a late adopter of Twitter, and if you're someone I know, I'd love to find out what's going on in your life. My username is RansomOttawa. I don't tweet too often - as one online acquaintance just asked me, do we really need to know what's going on every minute of someone's life? - but feel free to follow me anyway. If you're someone I recognize, whether as an online or Real Life friend, I'll reciprocate.

Until next time, enjoy.

February 20, 2009

F5 #3: The Bard

Usually it goes in the other order, but after extolling the virtues of Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies last week, I'm going to go from the ridiculous to the sublime, and sing the praises of William Shakespeare this week.

I didn't start by liking Shakespeare. What self-respecting student does? For at least the first few years of high school, studying Shakespeare is almost an exercise in missing the point. It's all about character and plot and iambic pentameter and dénouement - and while I certainly understand the need to teach how the literature is put together, the fact that Shakespeare was a playwright, writing plays that had actual stories to tell, got left out. Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

That changed in Grade 12 English. After 3 years of studying the Bard's fair-to-middling plays, like Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night or The Taming of the Shrew, we finally got to read the Mother of All Plays: Hamlet. And I mean read: for about a week of class, all we did was read the entire play out loud and talk about the story. Then, in my last year, we studied not merely one, but three whole plays: Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello. So in my last semester of high school, I got exposed to more of Shakespeare's great plays than in the first three years put together. Did it not occur to the powers-that-be in their infinite wisdom that it ought to be the other way around? Get the kids hooked with the greats, I say, and then let them sink their teeth into the less worthy stuff.

So despite getting consistently high marks in English, dating a literature major, and generally being a sponge for all sorts of good books, I really didn't leave high school with a positive impression of William Shakespeare and his works. Three years in engineering school wasn't exactly conducive to drama appreciation, either.

But that changed when I turned the page in my academic calendar and transferred from the Faculty of Engineering to the Faculty of English, mainly due to two factors.

In my first year as an artsie, I took the usual Survey of English Literature course, and studied something new: Henry IV parts I and II. Throughout high school, we'd looked at tragedy and comedy, but never Shakespeare' historical plays. But in my next semester, I took the introductory course in literary criticism, and the textbook, Criticism: Major Statements edited by Charles Kaplan, focused on the study of Hamlet from multiple perspectives. Coincidentally, Hamlet was running just up the highway at the Stratford Festival, although I didn't get the opportunity to go, unfortunately. I just hadn't realized until that point that there was so much depth to a single play.

Then, in the summer of 1995, I just happened to catch a showing of Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing on PBS. Branagh has probably done more than anyone else to revive the performance of Shakespeare on film - starting, of course, with his excellent Henry V and culminating in the "eternal" Hamlet. Much Ado is the ultimate in Shakespearean weirdness: a heroine named Hero, a villain without a motive, and thanks to the casting of Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves, two brothers, one black and one white. If anything, it looks like Branagh just called up a bunch of his buddies and said, "Hey, let's film some Shakespeare for fun" - and as a result, it's just as much fun to watch as it must have been to perform. Besides, it was my first introduction to (besides Branagh) Washington, Emma Thompson, and Kate Beckinsale.

That, I think, was the moment of my conversion from Shakespeare-hater to Shakespeare-lover. Certainly I was ready to enjoy the course in early Shakespeare that I took in my next term at school. Good thing, too, because the laconic pace of study in high school could hardly have prepared me for a Shakespeare a week for ten freakin' weeks! But at least most of it was new to me: A Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, and that magnificent bastard Richard III, to name a few.

But Shakespeare was a playwright, and the best way to appreciate his work is in performance. I've seen Shakespeare performed on stage a few times, but my medium of choice is film. My favourite movie of one of Shakespeare's plays is Kenneth Branagh's 1996 magnum opus, Hamlet. I'm watching it as I write this. The Bard's longest work is rarely performed in its entirety; this film, clocking in at over four hours, is a rare exception. It features a cast of stars: Branagh in the starring role, Derek Jacobi as Claudius and Julie Christie as Gertrude. Kate Winslet also keeps her clothes on long enough to play Ophelia. Set in the 19th century and filmed on 70mm film like an old epic, Hamlet is absolutely gorgeous to watch: almost a perfect film. It's a crime that it took over a decade for a DVD to be available. A close runner-up is Ian McKellen's 1995 Fascist-inspired interpretation of Richard III, set in the 1930s (rather anachronistically, but who cares?) and climaxing in the Battle of Bosworth Field, relocated to the ruins of the Battersea Power Station.

In 1997, I tried to read the entire Shakespeare canon at the rate of one a week: alternating comedy, tragedy, and history. I think I did fairly well: about a dozen before I moved on to something else. It's been 12 years, and it is high time to try that trick again.

In the meantime, though, I've still got another three hours of Branagh to get through before the library wants their DVD back.

February 19, 2009

About 1 hour to the Messiah's Second Coming

Ottawa has been singularly honoured by hosting Barack Obama's first state visit. Air Force One is flying; Messiah 2.0 is coming on the clouds at this very moment.

I can feel the hopenchange already. Maybe I'll even catch a rainbow.

February 17, 2009

And now . . . this - Feb. 17/09

She blinded me with science

Researchers scanned the brains of certain men as they looked at a photograph of a woman in a bikini and discovered that sections of the brain that usually reacted to objects lit up.

Could that be because a photograph is, in fact, an object?

[Princeton professor Susan Fiske:] "I am not saying that they literally see them as an object, of course they know she is human," she said.

"But what the brain scans show is that they are reacting to this photograph as people react to objects. It is as if they are not fully human.

"They are not treating them as fully three dimensional humans."

[Full Story]

And could that be because a photograph is, in fact, a two-dimensional representation of a human?

And on that note, I'm off to objectify some dinner.

February 16, 2009

Happy "Family Day," everyone

No need to write anything new. I haven't changed my mind since last year.

And I'm still bored.

February 15, 2009

Congratulations, it's a bear

First it was a mouse, then a bee and a rabbit. Although it is still unclear what demon Nahoul and Assud's mother had unnatural carnal relations with this time, the fruit of this satanic congress has appeared on Al-Aqsa's children's program "Pioneers of the Future" in the form of a bear named Nassour, who promises that, "from this moment, I declare war on the criminal Zionists":

Dangit, I really was hoping for a duck. It's a pretty retarded-looking bear, if you ask me, but being the offspring of an apparent zoophile nymphomaniac, it's reasonable to expect a few genetic deficiencies here and there.

Note also the scene of two bears lynching a little white girl. I think Nassour needs some sensitivity training.

February 14, 2009

Saturday in the wild: February 14, 2009

Because of the blow-up over Jojo's pro-life talk at St. Mary's University last Thursday, I didn't get around to posting the regular list of blogosphere goodies. So this is, more or less, a twofer.

Fred Butler, a member of Grace Community Church, celebrated 40 years of having John MacArthur in the pulpit: a rare milestone, to be sure. Start with this post and read on. While MacArthur isn't one of my "go-to" theologians or preachers, I own several of his books and have always appreciated his ministry, particularly his emphases on personal and corporate holiness.

There were five of us home for Christmas this year, and no fewer than six copies of William Young's popular but controversial novel The Shack were exchanged. Tim Challies dug up this funny post at The Scriptorium: four parody reviews done in four literary styles, in The Shack: Four Walls, Five Reviews.

Jeremy Pierce posted an interesting read about the recent selection of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. Apparently some complaints are circulating that it was high time someone gave a shot at the role to a black or female actor. (Names like Catherine Zeta-Jones or Chiwetel Ejiofor have been suggested - as if euther of them would settle for the pay cut!)

You're casting for an iconic character with a history dating back over 40 years. You want to produce the best artistic product you can, and the choice of the lead role on such a show is huge. It would do a lot of good in the world to cast a black actor for the part. However, there are considerations more important than race, and those should never be put aside if it turns out all the black actors who audition are enough away from what you think the role needs to be like compared with a candidate who just stands out as perfect. According to all reports from the producers, they chose someone who does exactly that. He seemed exactly what they wanted. If they had a black actor who'd auditioned who could do the job passably, it seems to me that it would be immoral to hire him instead of the guy they went with. If they had someone who would have been great for the job if the guy they hired had never appeared, who perhaps might have otherwise been their first choice, then it becomes a harder question.

[Read Doctor Who Meets Affirmative Action Absolutism]

While I was ranting about censorship of pro-life views on the East Coast, Ezra Levant spent some time highlighting the censorship going on out West at the University of Calgary. In "University of Calgary alumni should cut off their donations," he argues:

This is not a pro-life vs. pro-choice discussion. That's irrelevant. This heavy-handed bullying by the U of C would be appalling no matter which side of the debate was being squashed. I think that any pro-life alumni should be extra angry that the university is officially gagging one side of that debate. But any pro-choicer who believes in freedom of speech should be disgusted with their alma mater, too."

(I disagree with Ezra on one point: it indeed is a pro-life vs. pro-choice discussion, to the extent that it is consistently pro-life speech that is being squelched from campus to campus. Pro-choice speech is not being censored, and the same student governments that condemn graphic images when pro-life advocates display them, defend their use as "freedom of speech" when it's pro-Palestinian advocates displaying them. I do agree with Ezra, however, that it really doesn't matter whose view is so censored; the fact that it happens at all is abhorrent to a democratic society.)

A few days later, Ezra added, in The University of Calgary is a disgrace:

A political group of students on campus – they happen to be the pro-life group, but does it really matter? – wanted to have a peaceful demonstration. Demonstrations, displays, banners, posters – these things are a daily occurrence at U of C and other universities. But only this one is being banned by the university administration.

As I noted the other day, the U of C isn’t just using its own student rules to silence these kids; and it isn’t just threatening them with civil lawsuits. It has dispatched the Calgary Police Service to hand-deliver criminal summonses to them, at their homes.

I’m all for private property and the law of trespass. But to try to shoehorn registered students at the U of C into the category of “trespasser”, simply because they have a strong political point of view, is a transparent sham.

It’s an abuse of process.

It’s an abuse of the police.

And that’s why the university did it.

Jill Stanek chimes in:

Contrast this free speech suffocation with the fact that at least twice the U of C has allowed exhibits of the Chinese government's torture of Falun Gong followers, in March 2007 and November 2008. The latter display was erected "[a] bare 30 metres from the [very] pro-life display" that is now the target of the lawsuit, according to a Calgary Herald editorial today decrying the university's legal action against pro-life students.

Ironically, the 2007 Falun Gong display included a "touching" painting of a born baby being killed, according to U of C's student newspaper, The Gaunlet. . . .

[Read "Protect" people from pictures of aborted babies?]

I will admit, by the way, to being of two minds on the U. of C. issue. Strictly speaking, the issue is not one of free speech, but the manner of speech: the school has not denied Campus Pro-Life permission to display the GAP images, just asked them to turn them around. In and of itself I don't find that unreasonable, and feel that it would not compromised the message for the CPL students to have complied. But if they have not made a similar request to other groups with similar displays (such as the aforementioned pro-Falun Gong demonstration), then there is a double standard.

Another one from the Parableman, this time an intriguing article on Charles Darwin's ideology, posted on his 200th birthday this Thursday:

I've been wanting to post some thoughts on a recent piece by Richard Gray in The Telegraph on a new book by Adrian Desmond and James Moore that details Charles Darwin's anti-slavery motivations. I've been putting it off, but I decided it would be fitting to write it up on the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. Gray points to some journals from Darwin's voyages on the Beagle and letters of family members that reveal his disgust at the practice of enslaving fellow humans and involvement in the abolitionist movement. This is so contrary to the false portrayal of him in some circles that applies later Social-Darwinist ideas to Darwin himself, something he never endorsed and would not have tolerated.

This wasn't all that surprising to me, even though I didn't know of his outright abolitionist views. After all, Darwin was such a strong supporter of the common descent of all humans in explicit opposition to views that had different ancestries of different races without a single common ancestor population for humans. Such views were around in his day and had been put to use in support of slavery. In this way Darwin was closer than some of his contemporaries to the view found among many Christians that three races had arisen from Noah's three sons, with further divergence later on at the tower of Babel.

[Read Darwin's Ideological Motivation]

Charles Darwin was one of the three major 19th-century thinkers who most strongly shaped the 20th-century worldview, as well as the oldest. If I am still blogging and haven't moved on to some other Web 3.0 media, Karl Marx's bicentennial is not until May 5, 2018; Sigmund Freud's is the next day, May 6, only in 2056 - and if I'm still alive and writing, I'll be noting his 200th birthday at the ripe old age of 85.

Finally, speaking of Charles Darwin, he is the subject of this year's Pascal Lecture at the University of Waterloo: the speaker is Dr. Denis Alexander, research scientist from the University of Cambridge in cancer and immunology. The titles of his lectures are "Rescuing Darwin" and "Is Darwinism Incompatible with Purpose?" The Pascal lecture series is an annual forum for discussions of Christianity in the university. During my time at Waterloo I had the pleasure of attending two of them: geneticist R. J. Berry in 1994, and historian George Marsden in 1996. One of my regrets during that time is that I missed Margaret Avison in 1993, as she later became one of my favourite poets - really, one of the few I can stand. I don't believe I was on campus in any case, unfortunately.

Oh yeah - and apparently, today is Valentine's Day, or something.

Until next week, enjoy.

February 13, 2009

F5 #2: The Austrian Oak

Arnold Schwarzenegger is an embodiment of the American Dream: poor as a child in Austria, he became a rising star in the world of bodybuilding, becoming the youngest Mr. Universe in 1967 and then winning the title four more times, as well as six consecutive wins of the Mr. Olympia competition between 1970-75. Schwarzenegger used his fame as a bodybuilder to get to Hollywood, where movies such as Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator made him famous. Arguably the peak of his filmmaking career was the 1991 sequel to the latter. In 1986 he married Maria Shriver, a niece of John F. Kennedy. And in 2003, he became the second actor (after Ronald Reagan) to be Governor of California. And here Schwarzenegger has reached the peak of his professional life: unless a constitutional amendment happens, the Governator is ineligible to run for the presidency as he is not a natural citizen of the U.S. Still, at a shade over 60, no one can deny he's had a good run.

I honestly can't remember what the first Arnold Schwarzenegger movie was that I saw. Probably The Terminator - on television, of course, as I would have been too young to see it in the cinema. In fact, by the end of high school it wouldn't surprise me if my entire Ahnold intake was that and Commando - of which I remember precisely nothing, with the exception of one line; "Remember when I told you I would kill you last? I lied."

Besides, I have this tendency to think of Schwarzenegger as a science-fiction actor rather than an action hero. Which is odd, because while his 80s blockbusters include such films as the aforementioned Terminator, Predator, and The Running Man, it also included straight action-adventure such as Raw Deal and the comedic Twins. Well, there's Conan and Red Sonja too, so maybe my perception was coloured a bit by the fantasy. It probably reflects my then-interests as well, since as a teenager I was less interested in tough guys wielding heavy arms in the jungle, unless they were using them against aliens.

The first Arnold movie I saw on the big screen was 1990's Total Recall. I was already predisposed to favour this film, due to its being based on a story by Philip K. Dick, and Schwarzenegger in the starring role was just the icing on the cake. Total Recall has since been one of my favourites of his, second only to The Terminator. It has everything that makes Schwarzenegger films fun: an implausible plot (gigantic alien air-making machine buried under Mars), over-the-top violence (Arnie rips Michael Ironside's arms off), action-comedy (Arnold arrives on Mars wearing a defective, animatronic fat-lady costume), and Arnold dropping ridiculous one-liners ("See you at the party, Richter" and the infamous "Consider that a divorce") as he dispatches the bad guys. (If you're observant, look out for a considerable number of supporting actors who have also appeared in a Next Generation-era Star Trek series.) Total Recall also the only one of his movies I own: the "Special Limited Edition" DVD in the Mars-shaped film can. As a commentary junkie, I bought it mainly for the commentary track with Schwarzenegger and director Paul Voerhoven. (Let's just say Voerhoven's contribution is more informative.)

Arnold's best output was between 1984-94: the period between The Terminator and True Lies. While I've seen most of his films since then, they just don't have the classic appeal of his earlier work. And it remains to be seen whether he will return to the big screen in any significant way when his second term as governor ends in January, 2011. Certainly at 63 years of age, I would not expect him to return to the action-hero role. But there are still 15 years' worth of classic Arnie to enjoy. And hey, you never know.

February 11, 2009

Quick erratum re: the SMU debacle

In my previous post, I referred to two posts from Blevkog in which I referred to that blog as one of the "apologists for the pro-abortion shouters."

To this, author Flash replied:

I actually didn’t ‘play down’ anything - I was unaware that the talk was moved off-campus. Thank you for the clarification.

You will have noted that I in fact disagreed strongly with the way the protesters’ message was delivered - I recommended a calm, rational discussion, as anyone who chooses to click the link will discover.

I do agree with the message, and strongly disagree with the topic being presented. I make no secret of that, but I did not endorse or act as an ‘apologist’ for anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you have followed my posts over a period of time, I have consistently been opposed to displays of this sort. In fact, my position on free speech is quite the same as yours, which you may have noticed.

I would therefore appreciate if you would characterize my post more accurately.

Thanks for stopping by, anyway.

So, mea culpa. In fact I had not read Blevkog previously; these two posts simply came up in a Google blog search. Reading two posts in isolation may give me a very different impression than if I had read the same blog extensively, and so if Flash says he largely agrees with my point of view, I stand corrected.

I did note that Flash disagreed with the method of the protesters' delivery, so let me clear up any misunderstanding that I disagreed with him in that respect: I was simply not commenting on those parts.

Anyway, there being 1440 suckers born daily, there's no shortage of nitwits willing to argue that censorship via shouting down, cancelling, and pushing speakers off campus constitutes "free speech."

February 10, 2009

SMU: Shut Me Up?

Oops! Looks like I spoke too soon when I said those five YouTube videos were the entirety of Jojo's presentation before it was, ahem, aborted by St. Mary's U. officials. It appears there are actually 14 or 15 parts total, including Jojo completing his presentation off-site at a nearby church that was made available. As far as I can tell, there's no disturbance at the church and, unfortunately, the audio quality isn't great, so I won't bother posting those; feel free to look them up if you are so inclined.

Part 6:

I finally got some of Part 5 to load; where we last left our heroes, the Kampus Kops had finally arrived and taken the piece of paper down from the projector window, and Jojo resumed his talk. Then the thugettes started whining again: "Unbelievable! I can't even believe this is happening," rants the voice I've started calling the Whinette in Chief. "You are ridiculous. I don't even want to hear another word from you, I can't believe it. What kind of human being are you? What do your parents think about you?"

"They're actually really proud of what I do," replies Jojo. Applause.

Jojo hits the core theme of his pro-life message: We all know that abortion kills something; it is imperative to determine what that something is, before you can decide what to do with it. While there are differences between born people and unborn people, none of them are relevant to the question of thier identity. During this time, the thugettes are chattering loudly amongst themselves but not aggressively disrupting the talk.

Part 7:

Jojo continues to speak with thugette chatter and the occasional heckle in the background.

Part 8:

Having established what the unborn are, it's part of Jojo's presentation to show his audience what abortion does to them, and he began to show a video of abortion remains. (Even being recorded off a screen on a camcorder, some readers might find these disturbing, so consider yourself warned.) Up goes the piece of paper over the projector window again. This time, the campus police deliver their ultimatum to the protesters: Behave, or be arrested. They wisely choose the former.

Unfortunately, only a few minutes later, an SMU official arrives and declares the lecture cancelled: bizarrely, the school has decided to shut up the speaker rather than discipline the people actually causing the disturbance. The school's press release on the subject is, frankly, mealy-mouthed:

Protesters were asked to stop disrupting the event, but after more than an hour and a half, the presentation was relocated to a nearby location. Protesters were given the opportunity to ask questions and debate the speaker’s points, but they chose instead to shout slogans and prevented him from fully presenting.

Relocating the event, though regrettable, allowed the speaker to complete his presentation.

In the blogosphere, the apologists for the pro-abortion shouters are starting to come out now. One blog in particular, Blevkog, notes: "I can comprehend the fact that some people are possessed of such naiveté that they are surprised by the reactions of people to the expression of certain opinions or views." Fair enough, I say - and as I noted earlier, I suspect that if Jojo was truly shocked by the protests, it was due to the intensity rather than the fact of them (after all, one student Politburo has already attempted to shut down the campus pro-life club after it invited him to debate, and another shut his debate down pre-emptively).

On the other hand, Blevkog adds:

I take issue with the way the Chronically Horrid [Ha! Hadn't heard that one before. - Ransom] has semantically constructed their story to make Ruba the aggrieved party, while (if true) the fact that he got to continue his talk was left out. (emphasis added)

And in a later post on the same subject, commenting on the University's statement, he adds:

Free speech means just that: the freedom to speak about what you want, when you want (I’m not going to launch into a discussion of hate speech right at this moment - that way lies madness). The university’s position, no matter how much we may dislike it, is completely defensible, and would likely have been made in a similar way if the positions were reversed. In fact, by letting him talk, and display just how ignorant and deluded he is, the university has done everyone a favor. (Emphasis added)

There, it's all right. See? He "got to continue"; the university "let him talk." Except that Blevkog plays down the fact that the talk continued at a church off-campus, where he didn't need the university's permission. Jojo was "free" to speak in the same sense as if you don't like your workplace's recent unionization, you're "free" to seek other employment. Similarly, one YouTube commenter argues that "you seem to have mistaken 'free speech' for 'consequence free speech.'" In other words, say what you want, only if you depart from the campus orthodoxy, there will be consequences. Nice video clip. Shame if something happened to it.

"Free speech," in these Orwellian planets we call university campuses, means "free to do it my way or the highway." To what extent is speech "free" if someone else can control what you say, whether through authority or intimidation tactics?

Pro-abortion fascist chutzpah!

The remainder of Thursday's shoutdown at St. Mary's U., of pro-life speaker Jojo Ruba, has been posted to YouTube for a few hours now. Part 1 (includes the first five minutes already posted):

"How many people want to hear his speech?" one audience member asks. Resounding applause nearly drowns out the resumed chorus of "Women's bodies, women's lives / We will not be terrorized."

Part 2:

Thugette: "We're actually expressing autonomy and the right to self-government right now." Sure, if by "self-government" you mean governing the views others may hear in a public lecture. Thugette: "You're challenging women's fundamental right to freedom." Last I checked, between the right to free association and expression, and the right to abortion, it was the former that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms defined as "fundamental."

About five minutes in, Jojo gives up trying to talk, opens up a word processor, and starts typing his presentation on-screen. Brilliant.

Part 3:

Thugette accuses Jojo of "imposing hateful speech." Jojo asks: "Is it wrong to impose hateful speech?" Yes, of course. "Are you imposing that on me? I haven't been able to speak for half an hour, I'm sure that was being imposed."

One woman asks a pertinent question: "How do we make a comparison between women who have abortions, and the holocaust which was an ideological murder of thousands of an identifiable group?" Good question - and as Jojo points out, that was the very subject under consideration that evening. But the rest of the sisters started up again with the "Pro-life men have got to go" chant, drowning out Jojo while he attempted to answer her question.

Part 4:

Notwithstanding the thugette-imposed din, Jojo ignores them and starts lecturing anyway, including his visual presentation on-screen. Mindless slogans get louder and louder and louder and louder. I guess when you only have three bumper stickers to shout, you have to make up for it with additional decibels.

At about 5:45, just as the sloganeering dies down, a male voice screams out something that sounded to me like "Racist fucker!" (That second word wasn't clear to my ears, however - Jojo tells me it might have been "shame." I don't think so.) Awkward moment of silence: literally or figuratively, someone's crossed a line. Apparently, the irony of a bunch of white protesters yelling "racist" at a Filipino giving a lecture on a topic having nothing to do with race, was wasted on the moment.

Part 5:

At about 1:20, one of the protesters disrupts the presentation further by blocking the window of the projection booth with a piece of paper. "I want pictures of that, please," says Jojo. "So people can see how tolerant the other side of the debate is." She seems incredulous that he hasn't given in to her demand yet to turn off the computer. (Unfortunately, due to an apparent bandwidth issue, I have not been able to see more than the first two minutes of this episode.)

It is much to Jojo's credit that he stayed on-message as much as was possible for him. I certainly couldn't have continued to lecture for that many minutes with a gaggle of screeching women trying to drown me out. I said yesterday that in a confrontation with extremists, I prefer to give my opponents enough rope to hang themselves. Jojo's manners are better than mine, but he still did just that: the pro-abortion crowd just gets louder, shriller, and more irrational with time. I'm sure they think they won a momentous victory. But really, they just made fools of themselves in front of the cameras.

Meanwhile, the story has begun to grow legs in the blogosphere and media. In Halifax, the Chronicle-Herald reported today:

A pro-life speaker is shocked that an aggressive protest shut down his lecture Thursday evening at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

"If the university gives into this mob rule, then the mob gets to decide who gets to speak on campus," Jojo Ruba said in an interview Sunday night.

Mr. Ruba is in the middle of a speaking tour in Atlantic Canada on behalf of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, a non-profit organization in Calgary that he helped to found.

His lecture is titled Echoes of the Holocaust. He draws similarities between abortion and the genocide of six million Jewish people during the Second World War.

[Full Story]

Well, I don't know how "shocked" Jojo really was, since he's been circling the centre of controversy at two schools already in the last two years. But his point is valid nonetheless.

This is the part I nearly did a spit-take at:

Lesley-Anne Steeleworthy, who is chairwoman of the board at the women's centre at the university, said the lecture topic was "anti-choice" and offensive on "a number of levels."

"It is shocking," Ms. Steeleworthy said Sunday. "It’s comparing women who want the right to choose to being as evil as Hitler." [There, at least someone's shocked. - Ransom]

As a result, her group is considering a human rights complaint against the university chaplain for participating in the event. The chaplain is in his first year in the position.

And this, Faithful Reader, is the very definition of chutzpah: disrupt a lawful gathering to the point that it is disbanded, then lodge a complaint that your rights were violated.

Why not just shoot Jojo now, then bill his family for inconveniencing the firing squad?

Incidentally, St. Mary's is proud of its heritage as the oldest English speaking Roman Catholic university in Canada." Hmmm. Wouldn't you expect a Roman Catholic institution to be, er, somewhat "anti-choice"?

But back to that "Nazi" question. Damian defends Jojo on free-speech grounds, but takes exception to the Holocaust comparison: "a gross trivialization of the Holocaust, in [his] opinion." Near the beginning of the protest, one woman asked whether Jojo was comparing her to Hitler. And then there was the aforementioned very good question posed by one of the protesters, who unfortunately was not allowed by her friends to hear the answer: how can you justifiably compare abortion with genocide?

Of course, Jojo never called anyone "Nazis," "Hitler," or anything like that. Not everyone who supports legalized abortion is a worse version of Hitler. The Final Solution was a conspiracy: moral responsibility for the atrocities of the Third Reich were largely centred on a relative few individuals who worked together to engineer them. On the other hand, moral culpability for abortion on demand is not centred on any individual, party, or government; it is diffused throughout millions of women who have had abortions, thousands of doctors who perform them, and the politicians that enable them.

The point is that when large swaths of humanity are deliberately dehumanized, it is easy to find a way to dispose of them and shroud the act in euphemisms and rhetoric. The Third Reich treated European Jews, Gypsies, and others as nonpersons, thereby justifying their efficient disposal in the gas chambers and ovens. Legal abortion on demand treats the unborn as nonpersons, thereby justifying their efficient disposal in the doctor's office. There is a perfectly valid point of comparison here. Does it trivialize the Holocaust? By the numbers alone - approximately 45-50 million abortions in the United States since 1973 - legal abortion on demand certainly does make the Holocaust look trivial.

The issue, as always, comes back to the identity of the unborn. If they are not human persons, then 45 million abortions are merely the moral equivalent of 45 million tonsillectomies, and require no justification. If they are human persons, then 45 million abortions are the moral equivalent of 9 Holocausts, and there can be no justification.

But to the extent that an unruly gaggle of women successfully suppressed someone's right to free speech, because they did not approve of the ideology of that speech, yes, some women can be compared to Nazis.

February 07, 2009

Student blackshirts strike again

Where my friend Jojo Ruba goes, controversy follows. I have lost track now of the number of schools where one of his presentations has precipitated some sort of backlash against the campus pro-lifers. (Let's see . . . Carleton . . . York . . . I assume he was at least indirectly involved with the recent GAP presentation in Calgary . . .)

The wildest part is, it's not his fault - it's just that insofar as he exists, and has strong opinions on the topic of abortion, there are always a certain number of black-shirted campus shouters who have strong negative opinions on whether he should express them.

The latest august institution to feel the wrath is St. Mary's University in Halifax, where the requisite angry mob shouted down Jojo's presentation on Thursday night. This time, the confrontation made YouTube:

Now, I stand firmly in the "give 'em more rope" camp of conflict resolution; had I been in Jojo's shoes, I might well have done or said something to stir these "ladies" up even further. ("Gee, officer, how was I to know that an offhand comment about multiple piercings and questionable personal grooming would provoke such a violent response?") But I have to hand it to him: he didn't lose his cool.

Unfortunately, it appears that the proper response to "Sit down and let's talk" is now to shout bad poetry.

Let's take a look at some of that, shall we?

Not the church, not the state,
Women must decide their fate.

That the state cannot decide women's fate will, of course, come as a great surprise to all those pro-choice women who write letters to the editor arguing that since the Supreme Court struck down the existing law prohibiting abortion in 1988, it was now legal and we should all get over it. (And did I mention that the majority of judges sitting on that arm of the State were men? How inappropriate.)

Pro-life men have got to go!
When you get pregnant, let us know.

I've been waiting for an excuse to re-use this graphic:

Men can't get pregnant . . . so shut up about abortion, Dr. Morgentaler.

Women's bodies, women's lives,
We will not be terrorized.

If around 10 women feel "terrorized" by one rather short man standing alone at the front of a room, then I humbly submit that feminism hasn't empowered women as much as we have been led to believe.

No hate speech in our school!

I guess "Come in, sit down, and I'll answer your questions at the end" counts as hate speech now.

As always, this whole scene just goes to show: which side are the real fanatics on?

February 06, 2009

The triumphant return of F5: Feel the burn!

A few years back, I decided to devote the four Fridays of February to some strictly personal stuff about my guilty pleasures. I named the series F5: Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity. Unfortunately, I never managed to get the series to go the distance or on time. Recently, however, I discovered that Blogger has implemented a scheduling feature: by post-dating a blog article, I can write it well in advance and forget about it, and it will automagically appear at the appointed time. So I really have no excuse this year.

When I was little, my dad's brother lived nearby, and we would pay his family a visit a few times a year. My aunt had grown up in India; hence, curry was inevitably on the dinner menu. While I love curried food now, I didn't really like it until I was a teenager. But I did like the papadums that she served with it. (I still do - crispy, flat wafers of lentil flour, fried in oil until they puff up and turn crispy.) After three or four of these, I had a noticeable burn in my mouth. And that was my first experience with hot food that I can remember: I didn't much like it, but I put up with it.

I think the turning point, when I actually came to like the sensation of hot food, came some years later at summer camp. One of the counselors, who sat at my dinner table, had brought a bottle of Tabasco sauce with him. (Rumour had it that he and another counselor would secretly enjoy peanut-butter-and-Tabasco sandwiches after hours.) While I had often seen Tabasco sauce in cartoons, usually used as a weapon, I had never tasted it. With a single drop on the tongue, I felt like I had been napalmed. Not a pleasant experience. But the flavour - what there was of it in the instant before smoke began pouring out of my ears - was wonderful, and I wanted more, and I determined that I would learn to love the heat. My mother's single bottle of Tabasco, which she had probably had for years, was drained in only a few months as I began to find different uses for the stuff. (A few drops go very well with celery, and coincidentally I also began developing a taste for tomato juice.) She wasn't impressed, but the sauce was so old it had turned brown, so I was really doing her a favour. And thus my transformation into a committed chile-head was complete.

During my latter years of high school, a I attended a picnic held in honour of a visiting missionary and some of his students from India. Amongst the various dishes on the table was a veggie plate. And on this plate were some little, shiny, green peppers. "How cute," I thought, and took two back to my seat. I bit into the first one. It was cool, crisp, fresh, and tasty. So I finished it off quickly.

Bad move.

Living in a small town with a limited selection of fresh produce, how was I supposed to know what a jalapeño pepper looked like?

Of course, jalapeños have a fairly slow burn, so it was a few seconds after I had devoured the second pepper before I started feeling the heat from the first. For the next ten minutes, I sat in my seat and suffered. And sweated. And endured the snide remarks.

Fortunately, you build up a tolerance for capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers hot), and jalapeños don't often have much effect on me anymore. And that's fine: although I'm an unrepentant chile-head, I don't really seek the thrill of hotter and hotter food. I feel that the heat should enhance and complement the flavour of the dish rather than be an end in itself. You can keep your suicide wings; make mine hot or even medium.

That doesn't mean I don't have a good selection of hot condiments in my pantry. I love hot sauces: chipotle sauce with chile, for example. My sister spent some time living in the Caribbean, and she has brought me bottles of two Antiguan sauces: Judy's and Suzy's. Bother are intolerably hot on their own, but both go very well with eggs. A Canadian sauce named Prairie Fire is good for adding heat to dishes without altering their flavour. And, of course, there's good old Tabasco Sauce.

Generally, though, I don't spike my cooking with hot sauces, unless the recipe specifically calls for one. I'd rather use an appropriate spice, like cayenne powder, or better yet, fresh peppers. There's no comparison between a pot of chili that has been simmering on the stove with fresh habanero or jalapeño peppers, and one that has just had a teaspoon of Tabasco dumped into it. I also recently discovered canned chipotles in my local grocery store, and they are good for giving food a rich, smoky flavour. (The sauce they are packed in makes an interesting addition to salad dressings, too.)

This, apparently, is my hobby - I don't have too many friends who like spicy food. So if you're over for dinner, I promise not to firebomb you. Too badly.

February 05, 2009

Bye-bye bunny, auf Wiederesehen wabbit season

The Israelis can breathe easy, knowing that the nefarious Jew-eating rabbit Assud, of Al-Aqsa TV's children's program Pioneers of Tomorrow, has assumed room temperature.

Rabbits are not known for an abundance of brains, and Assud went to the Big Hutch in the Sky after entering the Al-Aqsa studios after being told they were going to be bombed, so naturally it's the fault of the Jews:

Oh the humanity!

So what animal will Al-Aqsa use next to turn children into little murderous fanatics? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: with a human mother, a bee brother, and a mouse cousin, Assud's family is seriously screwed up. Biologically, duck season is inevitable.

And now . . . this - Feb. 5/09

Robbing in a mask has no honour!

A surveillance picture released by police Wednesday afternoon shows a man armed with what appears to be a small Klingon sword, holding up a 7-Eleven convenience store.

That same man robbed another 7-Eleven store store a half-hour later, and remains at large, Colorado Springs police Lt. David Whitlock said. . . .

Both clerks described the weapon as a Star Trek Klingon-type sword, called a "bat'leth."

[Full Story]

Look out for a rash of phaser-related injuries in the future, after all the 7-11 clerks in Colorado Springs start packing.

Ride the magic atheist bus

With the announcement that the Richard Dawkins-sponsored, weasel-word-laden atheist bus ad campaign will be coming to Toronto, maybe Canadians will want to get on the bus-ad bandwagon. Now you can, thanks to the Bus Slogan Generator, you can fill the world with all sorts of "Bright" goodness.

There's probably no bus. But I wouldn't step off the curb just yet.

There's probably no Richard Dawkins. He hasn't ever sent me any daily bread.

(H/T: Challies.com.)

I guess I'm just a masochist

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the Ottawa Canada Linux Users Group (OCLUG). While I am technically a member and have been since about 2000, unfortunately I rarely get to go because of other commitments on Tuesday nights. Much of the time the presentations are of a highly technical nature and actually hold little interest for me, as I'm more or less an end-user rather than a hacker.

But last night's meeting was worthwhile for the opening presentation, given by Josh Bush, one of the organizers of linux.conf.au, Australia and New Zealand's annual Linux conference held last month in Hobart, Tasmania. In particular, Josh handed around a copy of the conference program. It was done entirely with open-source software: Gimp and Inkscape for the graphics, OpenOffice for the text, and Scribus to put it all together. It was slick: glossy, four-colour, spiral-bound, and all round quite professional.

I've got Scribus installed, and after seeing what it is actually capable of, today I felt inspired to give it a spin. So I located a sample text (one of my old Sunday school lessons), gave it a quick massage in OpenOffice, and fired up Scribus to have some fun. Or so I hoped.

  • After a quick page setup, I tried to import my OpenOffice exemplar. "Scribus crashes due to Signal #11." Total user experience to date: 5 seconds. Feh.
  • Take two: maybe the first crash was a freak occurrence. But this time, before attempting the import, I saved all my settings. Another "Signal #11." Double feh. But, when I reloaded my Scribus document, I found out it had somehow imported the text anyway. Go figure. Well, at least it saved me the trouble of launching OpenOffice again just for the sake of a quick cut-and-paste.
  • The import completely strips all formatting from the text - including bold or italicized words. So now I will have to go through the whole thing and fix them manually.
  • Except that apparently the programmers never saw fit to include a "bold" or "italic" feature. You can work around it by highlighting the word and changing the font to the italic or bold version, but still.
  • Next step: Create some paragraph styles so I can format the text. Well, isn't that interesting? It appears that the developers who coded the left-margin-indent feature didn't think someone might need to indent the right margin as well.
  • Then I set up some master pages, with appropriate headers and footers and margins for left and right printing. Turns out that applying a new master page over an existing page isn't the cleanest operation.
  • Next, I created enough pages to hold all the text (about 10) and began linking them together so the text would flow properly from page to page. Oops, missed one. Unlink, unlink, unlink, unlink, unlink . . . relink, relink, relink, relink, relink. If you look up "tedious" in the dictionary, there's a picture of the Scribus logo.
  • After more text-wrangling, it finally looked pretty presentable, so I decided to see how it would export to PDF. It turns out Scribus can't embed OpenType fonts; so much for using Minion as the body text. Quick switch to Palatino.

In the end, the "booklet" didn't look half bad for an hour and a half of experimentation, but I don't think Scribus is quite ready for production work yet. Perhaps as a technical writer I'm spoiled by more sophisticated software like FrameMaker, which is geared toward long technical documents, whereas Scribus' niche is more along the lines of PageMaker or QuarkXpress. It's still missing features I would consider essential, such as numbered or bulleted lists, footnotes, cross-references, and indexing, in addition to more basic functionality like the aforementioned bold, italic, and right indent. I'm impressed with Scribus' ability to create slick, spiral-bound, four-colour calendars. I'm less impressed with its ability to produce a short book, especially as it's nearly six years old. But it definitely shows promise, and I can't wait to see what future updates add.

February 02, 2009

Way to go, Willie

It's official: six more weeks of winter. Canada's official prognosticating groundhog, Wiarton Willie, has spoken.

I'm sitting in my lovely basement rooms, and I'm in perpetual twilight because my windows are half-buried under three feet of snow. Is winter going to last another 6 weeks? You bet. That's how long it's going to take just for the snow to melt. I can figure that out myself without the help of a stupid gopher, thankyouverymuch.

The main problem with Willie's prediction, however, is that it fails to account for the visit to Canada by Barack Obama in two weeks. In the frozen wasteland of Canada, it is always winter and never Christmas. But Obama is on the move - perhaps has already landed. He's the King. He's the Lord of the whole country, but not often here, you understand. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Canada at this moment. He'll settle Wiarton Willie all right. Maybe he'll bring his unicorns.