January 30, 2009

Friday in the wild: January 30, 2009

Today is a good day to celebrate the unlamented passing of two of Ottawa's most unsavoury characters.

First, the 52-day-old OC Transpo strike died yesterday when the city and the Amalgamated Transit Union came to a tentative agreement to go to binding arbitration without preconditions. The buses will start running again in a week and a half, though full service will not be restored for over two months. Both the union and Mayor Cueball seem to be declaring victory. A pox on both their houses, I say. I figured out how to get downtown in 45 minutes on foot, and it's good exercise.

The second death is the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition in Parliament. The Liberals will support this week's budget upon certain conditions, which the Tories have agreed to. Once again, Prime Minister Harper played his hand brilliantly: now instead of plotting to take down the government, Jack Layton is complaining about his erstwhile Grit allies. Angry in the Great White North is, as usual, on the case, and provides this analysis:

On January 26, parliament reconvened and the Conservatives brought down the budget the next day. Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe immediately promised to vote it down and announced that they remained committed to installing the coalition as a government without an election.

But Michael Ignatieff abandoned the coalition, and decided to support the Tory budget with one mild amendment (the Conservatives have already announced that they will accept the amendment proposed), leaving Jack Layton sputtering. His coalition was now officially dead. . . .

Realistically, the coalition represented the only chance Jack Layton would ever have to sit on the government benches as a member of the NDP. Indeed, it might turn out that, looking back, we'll recognize that this was the closest the NDP, as a party, ever got to being in government.

And Michael Ignatieff took that away - not just Jack Layton's chance at power, but his place in history as well.

[Read Betrayal and Consequences: Jack Layton Versus Michael Ignatieff]

Looking for a name for your heavy-metal band, and want to know where you fit in the ecosystem? Via Comic vs. Audience, here's a handy chart. (H/T: Boing Boing.)

I have always been fascinated with "cop talk" - the unnecessarily wordy way that police officers speak when they get on television (or in the stand). Turns out I'm not the only one: again via Boing Boing, I found this article from last March, about how "cop talk" can harm a cop's credibility in court:

When you talk like that, you sound like somebody who's full of himself or who's trying to hide the truth in a mountain of syllables - both are stereotypes we do NOT need to be reinforcing with jurors. You don't sound like a regular person the jury can relate to and identify with. So, when the defense attorney starts beating up on you the jury just sees two courtroom professionals - neither of which they can identify with (which means they can't empathize with) - going at each other in some highfalutin' word game that has little to do with them - or justice.

When asked what behaviors increase a witness' credibility in court, jurors responded that "uses understandable language" is one of the most important. . . . That's why we call it "straight talk." This is the critical reason to quit talking funny in court - it hurts your credibility. Credibility is the degree to which the jury believes you - and that's the one confrontation you must win in court.

[Read Cops Talk Funny]

Consternated that the ECT people have taken a year and a half to talk about the place of Mary in the church, David at Biblical Christianity offers up his succinct statement:

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a pivotal yet relatively minor figure in the New Testament, of no more ongoing direct personal impact on the lives of Christians than any other exemplary (yet flawed) redeemed sinner depicted in the Bible.

[Read Biblical Christianity Statement on Mary]

'Nuff said.

John Updike, possibly one of the finest literary authors of the 20th century that I've never bothered to read, died this week. Ben at Faith and Theology wrote about Updike's theological influences:

I was very sad to hear that one of my favourite contemporary novelists, John Updike, has died. Updike was deeply influenced by Kierkegaard and Karl Barth; he is the most theological novelist you'll ever come across. In an early essay, he remarks that, at one time, Barth's theology was the only thing supporting his life; he used to keep Barth's Romans commentary beside his bed, to read a few pages at a time. Much of his fiction could be read as an extended reflection on Barth’s dictum: "here is no way from us to God . . . The god who stood at the end of some human way would not be God."

[Read John Updike, 1932-2009: a glance at his theology]

Russell Moore, on the other hand, wasn't quite as impressed:

I've read all Updike's novels but the last one (a sequel to his Witches of Eastwick) and I always finish them with something of the same kind of sick fascination that the boy David would have seen the pigeons torn apart by gunfire. There's something beautiful there, a spark of divine creativity, but something sad and pitiable as well. Updike, it seems to me, had a love/hate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Few novelists could illustrate the suffocation of upwardly mobile but spiritually rootless middle class America with more vivid imagery than Updike, especially in his series of four books on the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. Those books also lay out the problem of sin, guilt, and judgment better than many gospel tracts, except without the solution at the end.

[Read John Updike is Dead]

Justin Taylor linked to Updike's rules for reviewing books. Good stuff - pity the commentds devolve into an argument about gender-neutral pronouns. Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Finally, the Daily Bulletin announced a public lecture by free software guru Richard Stallman on campus yesterday, under the auspices of the Computer Science Club. In the Bulletin blurb is this sentence:

The free software movement developed the GNU operating system, a free Unix-like system often erroneously referred to as Linux.

Heh. Looks like RMS writes his own PR copy. Unlike the Free Software Foundation whose GNU/Hurd has been in development for nearly 20 years and still isn't ready for prime time, Linus Torvalds actually succeeded in creating a free UNIX-like operating system that people actually use. Stallman wants to take credit for Torvald's Linux kernel (produced independently of the FSF) because although it's the one thing he never managed to release, it's also the heart and soul of the whole system. I love Emacs and have been using it for years, Richard, but geez . . . someone beat you to it, you bitter old hippie, so quit whining.

Until next time, adieu.