Sunday, October 29, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Dark Towers Diaries - Day One Hundred and Twenty-Eight

So now the Song of Susannah is behind me and we're on to the the final book of the series, which is entitled The Dark Tower funnily enough.
Susannah ends on a less than satisfactory note. In the previous books in this yarn, Kimg has at least tried to wrap up some of the loose ends in each book to at least give some credence to the idea that each novel can stand alone. Here, he doesn't even try; all the plot threads are left hanging until the next book. And that's an odd choice because one character's story (Father Callahan) comes to end with his death early in The Dark Tower, so by transplanting this bit to the previous book, it might have helped. [SPOILER ALERT: The previous sentence contained a major spoiler.]
This last book is a monster, about 1200 pages. I can't recall ever trying to read a book this long. Simon and Schuster are lucky that Bush never tried to invade them. This is literature of mass destruction. A planeload of these could bomb an entire city flat. I got a flat tire on my bike when I took my copy to work. I've found where all the trees from the Amazon rain forest went -- Chapter Five. Is that a Stephen Kimg novel in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Friday, October 27, 2006

What About Putting Saddam Back in Charge?

Will Durst thinks it might work...
He’s tan. He’s rested. He knows the territory. Not doing much right now. Still has huge name recognition. Wouldn’t have to re-introduce him to the populace.
And be honest, how much worse could his re-reign be than what’s going on right now? Hell, we don’t need some big time fancy commission to tell us what to do.
Henry Kissinger is on board; ask him. Just resurrect his 32-year-old plan for Richard Nixon. We declare victory, and leave. Reinstall a chastened reformed Hussein and appoint someone to watch over him. How bout Dick Cheney? Kills three birds with one stone: Gets the Vice President, whose approval rating is lower than an anchovy milkshake, out of Washington AND in place to provide hands-on control over his Halliburton operation, AND Bush gets to appoint a successor for 08. Besides, if Cheney can’t instill the fear of Allah in Hussein, nobody can.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Kissing Kyoto Goodbye

"It's a path which is indeed, globally, quite suicidal. I just look to my grandchildren and their children and say, 'Jesus, the world is going to be a different place, and it's going to be a much less secure place, and much less comfortable place and there's going to be a whole pile of dead people.'"
-- Former Environment Minister David Anderson

Canada is first out of Kyoto, in deed if not in word, with the Conservative government's so-called Clean Air Act which was introduced last week. Prime Minister Harper, saying this country is showing leadership by sending our boys and girls off to die to honour our NATO commitments, doesn't seem able to show leadership by living up to our international environmental commitments. The true north, strong and free, and the biggest per capita polluters on the planet.
While some might argue that the government's slow pace to bring in hard caps is better than nothing, it's really worse than nothing. For starters, Harper is planning three years of consultation with industry before producing any new regulations at all. Hard emissions caps will be introduced until 2025. This lengthy period of inaction is explained away by the old excuse of not wanting to harm the economy.
This is madness. There will be no economy by the mid-21st century without immediate action on climate control now.
How hard is to say to industry , "2006 is the limit. Next year, you cannot pollute anymore than you did this year. And the year after, you're going to start bringing that down."

What others are saying:




Garth Turner

Green Party

Environmental Defence

Sierra Club


Monday, October 23, 2006

Seals, anyone?

Here's some seals from yesterday's paddle.

This guy had an itch that needed scratching.

He seemed quite pleased with the results!

There's even more pictures here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Dark Tower Diaries -- Day One Hundred and Three

My crazy idea of reading all seven of Stephen King's Dark Tower books in a row continues, despite the fact some great unread books are piling up in my bookcase. The latest from Simon Winchester and Gwynne Dyer are there, along with the sixth Harry Potter book, and a Neil Armstrong biography. Plus I owe Neo-Opsis a book review; all I have to do is read the book!
I'm well into book six, Song For Susannah, and my first thought about is relief that it's 400 pages shorter than book five. I grant you that that sounds unfair, because King's prose and narrative skills are near the top of his game here, but still he does palaver on.
The wolves of book five were defeated, but Susannah, taken over by Mia, has escaped to 1999 New York to give birth to the, er, whatever that she is carrying. Meanwhile, the gang still has to save the Rose in 1977 New York. Meanwhile the second, Father Callahan discovers that his life was written as a novel by some guy named Stephen King. (This makes for some quiet and hilarious asides, as when Callahan notes that the novel was well-reviewed "...if you can believe all the blurbs on the jacket.")
Things are getting strange!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Worst Music Video Ever

Click here... if you dare...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Feeding Our Cars

In this article, Gwynne Dyer points out something that I wasn't aware of:
For the sixth time in the past seven years, the human race will grow less food than it eats this year. We closed the gap by eating into food stocks accumulated in better times, but there is no doubt that the situation is getting serious. The world's food stocks have shrunk by half since 1999, from a reserve big enough to feed the entire world for 116 days then to a predicted low of only 57 days by the end of this year.
That is well below the official safety level, and there is no sign that the downward trend is going to reverse. If it doesn't, then at some point not too far down the road we reach the point of absolute food shortages, and rationing by price kicks in. In other words, grain prices soar, and the poorest start to starve.

So another crisis is looming in a century already full of crises. While Islamic fundamentalism takes on Western fascism, while we go to war to fight for cheap oil to burn away in our SUVs (and slowly poison ourselves in the process), while we approach massive environmental and economic upheaval, we are running out of food. And where is it going? Dyer further notes:
In the United States, a "corn rush" has been unleashed by government subsidies for ethanol, and so many ethanol plants are planned or already in existence in Iowa that they could absorb the state's entire crop of corn (maize, mealies). In effect, food is being turned into fuel -- and the amount of ethanol needed to fill a big four-wheel-drive SUV just once uses enough grain to feed one person for an entire year.

So not only are we killing ourselves and our planet to support our energy-rich western lifestyle, now we're literally starving people to do it.
And the conseqeunces? Dyer notes in this article the baffling non-response of the world's politicians and citizens to the climate change crisis, noting that: civilisation falls into violent chaos as huge numbers of people start to starve. Even two degrees hotter will reduce agricultural output in the main food-producing regions of the world by about a quarter.
Much hotter, and it will be much worse, so we may end up negotiating (or more likely, fighting) over which billion of us starve first. Intelligent human beings, faced with that prospect, would act at once, or so you would think -- especially because the actions required are not really all that painful, provided that they start right away.

We need our governments to put the same effort, if not more, into the right battles as they are into fighting the wrong ones. If we don't spend a greater effort fighting climate change and hunger than terrorism, then fighting the wrong battle will have been truly a monumental waste.

Bush Condoms

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Soldiers' deaths in Afghanistan the price of leadership: Harper

According to this CBC article, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the toll of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan is the price Canada is paying for playing a leadership role in world affairs.
"We see just how proud Canadians are of their soldiers and their families and we have also seen how difficult it is to bear the sorrows of their losses. But, ladies and gentlemen, that is the price of leadership in the world," Harper told the audience.

Whether you agree with the mission of our soldiers in Afghanistan or not, the one thing they are not there for is to soothe the ego of our nation and to convince our Prime Minister and ourselves that we are a major player on the world stage. If Harper's ego needs placating, he should find a better way of dealing with it.
If that really is why we are spilling our blood overseas, then they should come home right now.

The Dark Tower Diaries -- Day Eighty-Eight

Now we're into the final 100 pages of Wolves of the Calla. It's very interesting, King's prose has never been better, but damn, this is a long book.
Anyway, Roland has his plan in place, the Wolves are just a couple of days from returning to town, and Roland thinks he's rooted out the traitor. Everything's coming together, so naturally it should all fall apart any page now.
I'm enjoying seeing Father Callahan from 'Salem's Lot return, and I'm interested to see where he ends up (dead is my guess).
I should finish this off today, then it's on to the next book, Song of Susannah (which, mercifully, is 400 pages shorter than this one).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Top Ten GOP Excuses for Not Believing The Iraqi Casulty Count

From Ballon Juice....

10. At least when we kill civilians, it is an accident. Saddam intentionally killed civilians.
9. No one could have predicted there would be civilian casualties.
8. We tried to come up with a plan to win this war without killing civilians, but obstructionist Democrats made it too hard.
7. How many innocent civilians did FDR and Truman kill? (Excuse used partially used with a reference to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.)
6. Why all the fuss? The Iraqi people can ‘tolerate’ a few dead. (Excuse actually used by Bush in his presser.)
5. Freedom isn’t Free. Freedom is messy.
4. Better to have collateral damage over there than to have it over here.
3. The terrorists don’t care if they kill innocent civilians.
2. Brian Ross and the media have known people are dying in Iraq for a long while. Why did they wait until right before an election to tell us? (Excuse actually used here at Red State)
1. Epidemiologists?!? What the hell do skin doctors know about waging war? (Excuse partially used here: “So somewhere between 8 and 194 thousand, good lord I hope I never get treated by one of these quacks.”)

Bush Watch: The Saga Continues

Why doesn't Bush buy The Lancet's report that well over 600,000 Iraqis have died a direct result of the American invasion? One reason might be that the death in Iraq is higher under the Bush regime than under Saddam. According to billmon:
But it's hard -- or should be -- for Shrub to take much comfort even in that, because while Saddam ruled Iraq for almost 24 years, the Cheney Administration and the U.S. Army have had the place in their tender care for less than four. Two million divided by 24 equals 83,333 deaths a year. But 655,000 divided by four equals 163,750 deaths a year -- almost double Saddam's annual output.
Or, if you prefer to use more "conservative" estimates for both:
Saddam: 31,250 deaths a year (750,000 divided by 24)
Cheney Administration: 87,500 deaths a year (350,000 divided by four)
But that makes the comparison look even worse.

It's US vs. Them. But who are "them"? Robert Parry suggests that not even Bush knows.
"But I’m never clear who “they” are or exactly what “it” is. If “they” are the Sunni Islamic fundamentalist terrorists of al-Qaeda and “it” is 9/11, U.S. forces could have concentrated on al-Qaeda strongholds along the Afghan-Pakistani border until Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri and their followers were captured or killed.
Bush, however, expanded the “they” to include the secular dictatorship of Iraq, the Shiite government of Iran, Syria’s Assad family dynasty, Lebanese Shiite militants of Hezbollah, Palestinian Sunni militants of Hamas, and a hodgepodge of other Islamic radicals around the globe.
So, instead of finishing a winnable war against al-Qaeda, Bush veered off into a diffused struggle against a diverse grouping of Muslim leaders, nations and organizations lumped under a terrorism umbrella.
Bush also has offered no coherent strategy for winning what amounts to a global counterinsurgency war against Islamic militants. Beyond vowing to stay on “the offensive” in Iraq and elsewhere, Bush has promulgated a dubious theory that widespread anti-Americanism can be overcome by imposing “democracy,” through force if needed.
But this “democracy” theory has run aground on the hard reality that Muslim hatred of Bush is so intense that almost whenever citizens get to vote they either act on behalf of narrow sectarian interests (as in Iraq) or they vote for people who have earned popular support by standing up to the United States (as in Iran, Palestine and Lebanon).
That means that the only “reliable” U.S. allies are still the “moderate” autocrats, such as the Saudi royal family, the Jordanian monarchy, or the dictators of Egypt and Pakistan. If the popular will in those countries were respected, the likelihood is that the elected governments would join the “coalition of the hostile” against the United States.
In other words, Bush has no real strategic plan for winning the “war on terror,” short of waging a bloodbath against large segments of the world’s one billion Muslims, a global version of the carnage on display in Iraq since 2003 and in Lebanon during the Israeli war against Hezbollah last summer.
Yet, even a bloodbath strategy along the lines of the Iraq War is certain to fail. As the U.S. intelligence community has recognized, the Iraq War has become a case study in how not to conduct counterinsurgency warfare – as well as an example of how wishful thinking and incompetent military strategies can make a bad situation worse."

And why does Bush keep lying about UN inspectors not being allowed into Iraq before the invasion? From
There’s always been the frightening question of what would happen if a President of the United States went completely bonkers. But there is an equally
disturbing issue of what happens if a President loses touch with reality, especially if he is surrounded by enough sycophants and enablers so no one can or will stop him.
At his Oct. 11 news conference, Bush gave the country a peek into his imaginary world, a bizarre place impenetrable by facts and logic, where falsehoods, once stated, become landmarks and where Bush’s “gut” instinct, no matter how misguided, is the compass for finding one’s way.
In speaking to White House reporters, Bush maneuvered casually through this world like an experienced guide making passing references to favorite points of interest, such as Hussein’s defiance of U.N. resolutions banning WMD (when Hussein actually had
eliminated his WMD stockpiles).
“We tried the diplomacy,” Bush said. “Remember it? We tried resolution after resolution after resolution.” Though the resolutions had worked – and left Hussein stripped of his WMD arsenal – that isn’t how it looks in Bush’s world, where the resolutions failed and there was no choice but to invade.
At other news conferences, Bush has filled in details of his fictional history. For instance, on July 14, 2003, just a few months after the Iraq invasion, Bush began rewriting the record to meet his specifications.
“We gave him [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power,” Bush told reporters.
In the real world, of course, Hussein admitted U.N. inspectors in fall 2002 and gave them unfettered access to search suspected Iraqi weapons sites. It was Bush who forced the U.N. inspectors to leave in March 2003 so the invasion could proceed.
Over the past three years, Bush has repeated this false claim about the barred inspectors in slightly varied forms as part of his litany for defending the invasion on the grounds that it was Hussein who “chose war,” not Bush.
Meeting no protest from the Washington press corps, Bush continued repeating his lie about Hussein showing “defiance” on the inspections.
For instance, at a news conference on March 21, 2006, Bush reprised his claims
about his diplomatic efforts.
“I was hoping to solve this [Iraq] problem diplomatically,” Bush said. “The
world said, ‘Disarm, disclose or face serious consequences.’ We worked to
make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose
to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the
difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did. And the world is safer for it.”

Don't Be An Ass

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Can the US support 300 million people?

Can the US support 300 million citizens? Accordng to this story, probably not:

The danger, experts say, is that the US may simply have postponed the day of reckoning. Major environmental problems remain, and some are getting worse - all of them in one way or another connected to US population growth, which is expected to hit 400 million around midcentury. Some experts put the average American's "ecological footprint" - the amount of land and water needed to support an individual and absorb his or her waste - at 24 acres. By that calculation, the long-term "carrying capacity" of the US would sustain less than half of the nation's current population.
"The US is the only industrialized nation in the world experiencing significant population growth," says Vicky Markham, of the Center for Environment and Population, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization in New Canaan, Conn. "That, combined with America's high rates of resource consumption, results in the largest ... environmental impact [of any nation] in the world."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Dark Tower Diaries -- Day Sixty-Nine

I'm finding Wolves of the Calla a tough slog. I am enjoying it, but it's long. The main narrative gets sidetracked by lengthy flashbacks and it seems to suffer for it. While the flashbacks are interesting (and important plotwise), they interrupt the flow of the main plot. And one character has decided to not even finish his flashback, at least not until a more dramatically convenient moment. Still, King has set up an interesting situation here: a small village where most pregnantcies result in twins, but once a generation raiders (wearing wolf masks) come and take away one child from each set of twins, returning them a month or so later after they have been made into drooling idiots. "Roont" as the townfolk say.
Needless to say, Roland and company have rolled into town just before the next attack by the wolves.
How will it end? Who can say. Only Stephen King (and the millions of people who have the read the book before me) know for sure.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

V-Con 31

Spent the weekend at V-Con 31 in Vancouver, where a fine time was had by all. Here Stephanie mans the Neo-Opsis table.

Karl says Hi to Roy, while Roy gooses him. (I'm kidding!)

Steve and Paula look very pleased to be in the same picture.

What does one do at a V-Con? Go to the mall for ice cream, of course! Roy chows down... does Louise...

... and me, of course.

Finally, never fall asleep when I have my camera and an empty Pop-Tart box handy.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

On My Bike Today

I took my camera to as I rode to work today. I picked a good day. First off, what a sunrise!

Then, on the way home, look up in the sky, it's a bird! It's a plane!It's a...blimp!?!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Out For a Paddle

Here's some pix from some paddles last week. First up: Brentwood Bay.

We found this guy hiding in plain sight on a rock.

And here's some from Willow's Beach:

This guy popped up beside me and wasn't scared or panicked at all.

Check out the white seal in this group.

This guy played for the camera.

The Dark Tower Diaries -- Day Forty-Two

Finally knocked off Wizard and Glass, and moved onto book five, Wolves of the Calla. Calla checks in at a whopping 931 pages. Is bigger better? We'll find out.
It's ten years and one near-fatal accident later when King decided to finish off the last three books of the series in one go (close to 2500 pages).
Interestingly, there is a stylistic difference between the books over the 30-plus years King wrote them.
But now, it's time to find out who the wolves are and where the Calla is.