Quote of the day

"I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother wants us to."

- Willard Gaylin

"We are the Borg"

And we have always been Borg, from the first moment we picked up a twig and used to swirl ants out of a nest, or grabbed a thicker branch in order to club a delicious meal.

For more celebrity cyborgs, click on the link.

Sometimes you just gotta let it out

'Dinosaur Adventure Land' - where the Bible and Dinosaurs meet!

Unfortunately, these dinosaurs don't run amok (like 'Jurassic Park') and eat all the park inhabitants.

Disturbing on so many levels.


Cronenberg interviewed on 'History of Violence'

Curiously enough, he'd never read the graphic novel prior to deciding to do the film - it was the film treatment that caught his eye.

Entertainment this Week suggests that DC could be up for his first Oscar....


Discovery's back flip

Too cool for words. The only shame of it is this unprecedented maneuver was to check for damage to the Shuttle's heat shield after a piece of foam came loose during take-off. Rumours abound that the Shuttle will be grounded after it returns, but I suspect that NASA will find good reason to move forward with more launch dates sooner rather than later.


First they target Darwin, now it's Einstein

The 'Swift Report' - is definitely one of the most consistently funny blogs out there.

Cats, Candy and Evolution

Why cats prefer fish to chocolate.

Discovery's Flight Deck

My favourite story about the different approaches the Americans and Russians took to their space programs has to do with the problems of writing in zero-g. The US spent millions in research to come up with a pen that would do the job in micro gravity environments and trumpeted their success as one of the spin-offs of the Space Race.

The Russians in contrast solved the problem in a totally different way. They gave their cosmonauts...pencils.

Another blow against reform in Iran

Money quote:

"Ahmadinejad describes himself as a fundamentalist, has no qualms about asserting that there can be no democracy in Islam, rejects free-market economics, and insists on "religious duties" rather than human rights. This clarity will, in the medium term, help the people of Iran understand the choices involved. They will learn that they cannot have an Islamist system together with the goodies that the modern world offers in both material and spiritual terms."

Theocratic job postings

Sign me up! Have the 72 virgins scrubbed and sent to my room. I'm sure I'll be ready for my mission some time after next year. Or the year after. Wait, you mean I don't get the virgins till AFTER I blow myself up...WTF!?

Sheer madness.

Buccigross delivers another gem

I still can't believe this guy comes from the same country as Terry Frei (Atlanta) and Scott Burnside (San Francisco - or do I have these reversed? Doesn't matter, neither is a hockey town) and yet manages to write better hockey columns than most of the Canadian writers.

Our Solar System's younger cousin?

Let me state first off that I HATE 'artist renditions'. They always look like cheeseball paperback science fiction covers.

Otherwise, cool stuff. Hat tip to the Highlanders GM for the submission.


Hilary vs Rockstar Games

Ok, I have to admit that I find myself deeply confused.

On the one hand we have senator Hilary getting all uppity and crusaderish (shades of Tipper Gore) by decrying the sex and violence of video games. A case of political opportunism if I have ever seen one.

On the other hand we have Eric Pfeiffer of The National Review - a magazine I usually use as a barometer for what is fundamentally sick with US intellectuals (and to keep track on David Frum), almost but not quite defending the freedom of speech aspect the games represent.

Do you see my dillemna? On the left a democrat ready to wage war on video games (don't they have better things to do, like say, overthrow Bush?), and on the lunatic right a Republican who almost finds fault with her for doing so, but can't quite make himself endorse or critique her.

These are strange times we live in to be sure.

'Bladerunner' and the glowing green worms of immortality

'Pharyngula' post this excellent article on life-span differences in worms that is non-genetic while getting in a good Bladerunner critique.

"One ring to bind them all..."

Another nifty NASA jpg. showing a ring of comets in the Fomahault system.

TSN mock NHL Draft

Shock! Surprise! Crosby going to the Pens?!?!

Actually my prediction that Anaheim will select Jack Johnson for their blue-line is ratified by TSN, though I don't see his upside as being quite as high as they do - he's more of a Mathieu Schneider type than a Chelios - but it's still the best fit.

Kopitar to the Bluejackets? Yeah, what they need is another young gun scoring forward with skill to spare. Sick.

Calgary taking Ryan Stoa? Interesting -but that far down the list its a crapshoot.

Most magical pick of all has to be Colorado taking Paul Stastny. Wish fulfillment perhaps? Yan Statsny is a capable third line winger with good size and wheels, could brother Paul be even better?


As if video games didn't scare parents enough already

Polygon sex! Finally a reason to buy Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Of course, after you buy it you still have to download the app that lets you engage in coitus on screen, but hey, that is what the internet is for!

One final voyage

From IMDB:
The ashes of late Star Trek actor James Doohan will be sent into space following his funeral service. The Canadian TV veteran, who played engineer Scotty in the cult sci-fi series, died at his Washington home on Wednesday after suffering from pneumonia and Alzheimer's at the age of 85. His agent Steve Stevens and wife Wende are in discussions to send the actor's ashes into the galaxy on a rocket, after Doohen expressed the wish before his death. Doohan's wish will follow in the footsteps of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, whose ashes orbited the earth for six years from 1997. It is expected the remains of Doohan and Star Trek writer John Meredyth Lucas will be shot into space in September on board a Falcon 1 rocker, which will be launched from the Vanderberg Air Force base in California.


Skeptics annotated Book of Mormon

Wow - do these guys know how to have FUN!

I linked specifically to the 'abusrd scientific claims' section, but the whole thing is worth checking out.

With friends like these....

It's getting a lot harder for me to see the good in this nomination. Unlikely he'll be fillibusted either, as he as nothing on his record that is sufficiently creepy to derail him.

Just a guess, but I will not only bet he isn't David Souter, but that he is a lot closer to Antonin Scalia than he is to Clarence Thomas.

What about Bob?

It looks like the players have ratified the new CBA! Whew.

Now the question for the NHLPA is; 'what about Bob'?

Bob Mackenzie has three options;

1. He stays
2. He sticks around for a bit, to see how things shake out for his own 'buy-out'
3. He walks out immediately after the ratification.

I'm betting on #1. Why? Several reasons;

A. The hostility towards Goodenow from the players is likely overstated. The fact is he got them the a pretty good deal this time around all things considered, and he is responsible for negotiating a wicked deal 10 years back. What is hurting him with the Union is the stance he took on 'No Cap' during the negotiations. I'd argue that while that was an inherently unproductive starting point for the NHLPA, it nevertheless was little more than a failed bargaining ploy and not worth decapitating the NHLPA over.

B. The most likely replacement is hardliner Mike Gartner. Frankly, Goodenow is clearly much, much better for the NHLPA than Gartner would be.

C. He has a lot of money on the line - why walk away from close to $8M over the next three years?

D. If the players REALLY look at the new agreement they will see that they will get pretty much everything they wanted - earlier free agency, rookie caps, a basement on team spending, league revenue sharing, a mechanism that ties growing league revenues to player salaries, and an equal partnership with the NHL in marketing the game. What they lost was a chunk of cash (they were going to lose that anyway), and of course, a cap (which they were going to get no matter what). So if I were Bob, I'd be selling these facts to the NHLPA, and telling them to wait and see how this plays out - because like the last deal, it may well end up all being in their favour when the coins are counted out.

Worst Album Covers Ever

Damn but these are hilarious

Not only did Mr. Gage think that pimping his grief in the album title was a good idea, he also wears WHITE LEATHER BOOTS to a FUNERAL. I suspect his friends are all dead because of a suicide pact they made in their collectively bottomless shame at being the friends of Mr. Gage.

The future of women in Iraq

Given the latest drafts of their new constitution, it doesn't look good.

Money Quote:

"Anyone who has read anything about Iraq and the Middle East is not surprised that our invasion has created yet another means for religion to override secular, fair and just law. Imagine being a woman in Iraq, imagine knowing that you may well end up like your sisters in Iran, and worse, Saudi Arabia. Worse, imagine that as a woman in Iraq you realize that the invasion by the US has helped to take away your rights as a woman. And imagine how it would feel to hear Bush state how "free" Iraq now is, and how proud the US is of the "Democracy" that we have helped to create in Iraq."


Scopes defended by super-intelligent chimpanzee man from the future - c/o The Onion

The true joy of the MRI

The female is on the left, the male on the right. You'll have to look closely to discern anything remotely 'indecent', but if you check the link out you'll see diagramatic help to explain the image more clearly.

Dealing with the Creationists

Here is my response to Richard B's complaints that I am not dealing with the real arguments of Creationists.

Money quote:

"There are several ring species, but the most famous example is the herring gull. In Britain, these are white. They breed with the herring gulls of eastern America, which are also white. American herring gulls breed with those of Alaska, and Alaskan ones breed with those of Siberia. But as you go to Alaska and Siberia, you find that herring gulls are getting smaller, and picking up some black markings. And when you get all the way back to Britain, they have become Lesser Black-Backed Gulls.
So, the situation is that there is a big circle around the world. As you travel this circle, you find a series of gull populations, each of which interbreeds with the populations to each side. But in Britain, the two ends of the circle are two different species of bird. The two ends do not interbreed: they think that they are two different species."

So we have a real world example here of how you can have interbreeding populations separated only by distance that become more phylogenetically distinct as the distance increases - until the ends of the ring no longer recognize the other end as being a member of their own kind. Now consider how a minor calamity to a portion of the ring would change the single 'ring species' into two separate and non-interbreeding species - in short we would have an example of how 'speciation' occurs - the evolution of two distinct species from whence before there was only one.

In other words, the 'intermediary steps' of evolutionary speciation are visible to anyone who wishes to look for them, in the current populations of the Herring gull.

Red Shirt Down

James Doohan, rest in peace.

A Christian exodus?

Amusingly, they note that despite the fact they have effective control over; congress, POTUS, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, but yet they are still unsatisfied that abombinations like gays having sex, etc. are allowed to continue.

Their solution? "We are going to take our ball and go home" to...South Carolina. Where (not unlike our own Ab Separatist movement) they figure they can effectively secede from Federal jurisdiction and establish the 'Christian' nation they crave one state at a time.

Money quote:

* Abortion continues against the wishes of many States
* Sodomite and lesbian "marriage" is now legal in Massachusetts (and coming soon to a neighborhood near you)
* Children who pray in public schools are subject to prosecution
* Our schools continue to teach the discredited theory of Darwinian evolution
* The Bible is still not welcome in schools except under unconstitutional FEDERAL guidelines
* The 10 Commandments remain banned from public display
* Sodomy is now legal AND celebrated as "diversity" rather than condemned as perversion
* Preaching Christianity will soon be outlawed as "hate speech"


Reason to love Reason

Richard B. commented to me about an earlier post (and thanks again Rich) that I was effectively targeting only the most fringe/moronic element of those who object to evolution.

When I ran across this article, I felt somewhat vindicated. The more sane of the Intelligent Design (ID ) people - i.e. the ones who are genuinely serious about a debate on 'design' in nature, and the possibility of divine first cause, but who accept the basic facts of evolution and science, are actually the ones on the 'fringe' of this movement.

The massive base of the movement is still the same old creationists, bitter about all that 'book learnin' that isn't biblically focussed.

(I do wonder what 'faith based mathematics' might look like in their hands, but mercifully, that isn't at issue. Yet.)

Money quote from the Reason article I link to above by Ron Bailey:

"However, the longer I listened the clearer it became that creationism is not about science. It's about morality. Specifically, creationists worry that biological evolution undermines people's moral beliefs, leading to lawlessness, family breakdown, homosexuality, pornography, and abortion. The real heart of creationism is existential dread."

God Fearing

Money quote:

* More than 60% of American born-again Christians, American Catholics and Korean Christians, more than 80% of Peruvian Catholics and Hindus, and over 95% of all Muslims surveyed say they will suffer negative consequences if they disobey their religion.

In contrast there is Verbal Qint's take on this;

"Keaton always said 'I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of Him'. Well I believe in God, but the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soyze".

The Usual Suspects

Batman Begins

WOW - it was simply AWESOME

Let me say up front, that it was one of the best movies I've seen in a while. Period. However, I did have a few minor quibbles with it;

- Christopher Nolan clearly did not cut his teeth as an 'action' director. All the fight scenes suffered from rushed editing cuts which often obscured who was inflicting what damage to whom. This was especially frustrating in the climactic fight scene on the train.

- Rhas Al-Ghul's overly complicated villainous plot. (Spoiler Alert!) Lessee, he's successfully managed to dump large amounts of toxin into the Gotham water supply. Mission accomplished, no? No. Apparently, he felt it was necessary to use a drug that was only effective as an aerosol, and so he has to steal a prototype microwave weapon that will turn water into steam in a limited radius around it - he then has to drive the weapon around Gotham in order to enact his plan. Couldn't he have just picked a water soluble drug to start with? Afterall, Scarecrow sure looked like he might be familiar with other hallucinogens that would do the job.

- Katie Holmes. She wasn't bad. She was just overshadowed by the clingy blouse she wore that..uh 'showed off' how uh...'cold' she was.

- The Batmobile. I admit I was very sceptical after seeing the trailers, and overall, I was won over by it, but there was one scene where the tank sized car leaps from a parking garage and lands at full speed on a church roof top, before it leaps again to an off-ramp. Gosh I know churches benefit from centuries of architectural history in terms of sturdy construction (the flying butress and all that), but c'mon, a FREAKIN TANK lands on the roof and doesn't fall through?

Anyway, the quibbles are minor, the movie is AMAZING, and I highly reccomend it.

Here is one of the many money quotes from the flick;

"You know how it is, you go to a party and next thing you know someone is passing around a weaponized hallucinogen." - Batman


Ruthless Reviews: Superstud

I admit two things up front; I am a total nerd. I haven't read the book that Ruthless reviews.

I don't need to read the book now because A. the Ruthless review is in depth and from the sounds of things, WAY funnier, and B. being nerd in high school wasn't exactly a time period I want to relive.

Here is a money quote from the review;

"Paul even convinced a few chicks to make out with him, which seemed excessive for a young man so immersed in a nerd's paradise, but like so many of us, these "highlights" quickly lost all meaning once the girls involved refused to ever see us again or returned to an old boyfriend. Paul was far from unique in thinking that a first kiss meant commitment, engagement, and eventually marriage, but it still seems odd that we took things so seriously at that age. Some might be dismayed at the explosion of oral sex among kids as young as 12 these days, but there's something to be said for their casual approach to physical pleasure when just a generation ago, kids envisioned going from first base directly to the altar. If kids today aren't falling in love at the drop of a hat and can screw like bunnies without consequence, I'd equate that with much-needed progress rather than a sign of the apocalypse."

Women as the solution to 'Jihadism'

My father asked me what the solution to the Islamic problem is, and my answer was that the West had to learn to live with Islam, and Islam would have to learn to live with the West.

What is most troubling about the current Jihadism is that it is unequivocally about supremacy. There is no moderation in their ideology, it is predicated on subsuming the rest of the world to Islamic law, with no room for such things as pluralism.

The virtue of pluralism in defeating this ideology cannot be understated - nor can we allow pluralism (be it in the form of same sex marriage, or allowing the full plethora of religious beliefs to be practiced) to be defeated at home by conservative/religious ideologies that are extant here. To allow our own governments to backslide towards intolerance creates the very 'clash of civilizations' that fuels radical Islam. Only by remaining open, welcoming, and tolerant can we provide the positive example required to defeat the totalitarian/theocratic impulse.

As the article makes clear, the best place to start with pluralism abroad is with Islamic women. Education, and economic incentives are the key to undermining radical Islamism.

At home, it is a matter of defeating those forces that work against pluralism through democratic means. Be they the Tory party with its opposition to SSM, or whomever else seeks to undermine our universal freedoms.

We must practice the pluralism and tolerance we preach to them, and genuine victory will only come when they begin to practice it themselves.

Elephant evolution - they are losing their tusks

I am always shocked when I read creationist literature - shocked because real-world examples of evolution occur all the time. Whether it is drosophila flys that genetics students breed for their increasingly bizzare mutations, or as in this case, the effect of poaching on elephant populations.

By culling large tusked elephants through poaching, the remainder of the population - especially those with a gene that produces small or no tusks, reproduce more successfully.

Just another example of how human beings affect the environment - and thus play a role in the evolution of all other things.


New US official State Religion List!

Genuinely hilarious - they take the major religious groups by size of membership and assign them to US states in declining order of population.

California - Christian

and so on.

Some interesting states that result;

10. Georgia: Judaism

15. Washington: Non-religious, Frisbeetarians

30. Iowa: Hindu, Jedi, Shakers

38. Nebraska: Zoroastrianism, Canadians

44. Rhode Island: Weight Watchers


Nerds attacked by Zombies

Money Quote:

"here in montreal we have this big mountain/parc called the mount-royal. think of it as central parc as mountain. and every sunday for the past 20-something years thousands of hippies converge and play tam tams for hours. over the years all sort of other things started happening. most people just lay in the grass and smoke some pot while the cops turn a blind eye. people sell bracelets and paintings while some DnD nerds fights with big duct-tape swords.

thats what we were interested in. what would happen if an army of zombies came out of the woods and attacked the duct-tape fighters?"

- So they flashmob a bunch of people, get dressed up like zombies, and ambush the nerds in the park. Priceless.


Saturn's Moon Hyperion

The link takes you to a short movie the Cassini probe shoots of Hyperion as it flys by.

NHL Predictions

- Scott Niedermayer will find a way to become a Vancouver Canuck. He's a UFA, and he has expressed a strong desire to play in his home province. Says here that Nonis finds a way to make the numbers work with his cap space.

- Colorado cannot sign all of the RFA's they have without cutting significantly elsewhere. My prediction is that they will sign Forsberg (a UFA) but likely have to let Adam Foote, Milan Hejduk or Alex Tanguay find a new employer. One of those three simply won't be an AV in October, maybe more. I'll go out on a limb and suggest that Knights Templar FP Hejduk is too expensive compared to the others, and ends up elsewhere.

- The Penguins will make the playoffs. Now that Mario doesn't have to shoulder the world in terms of running and playing for the team AND worrying about whether payroll is going to get made, he can concentrate on staying healthy. With Recchi back to ride shotgun, cap space to add players capable of filling out the roster in front of MA Fleury, and two more teams making the playoffs, the Pens get in. Kovalev will also sign to play in Pittsburgh.

- Here's a limb for you, I bet the Blues sign Pronger and don't sign Tkachuk. I further bet that if they sign both, they miss the playoffs. Weight and maybe Demitra are both casualties.

- Jay Bouwemeester plays well enough over the year to have his name mentioned for the Norris (top 10 finalists), but is still at least a year or more away from winning it outright. I bet that some patient FUNHL GM will poach him in the first from the Barbarians (where he won't be matched) to make him an FP.

- Detroit is secretly praying that Lidstrom stays in Sweden. If he plays in the NHL next year, they will honour his deal, and Derian Hatcher (among others) will be released to create enough space to sign Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Ray Whitney and Cujo are also likely casuallties. The Grind Line of Maltby/Draper/McCarty stays intact.

- Now that the playing field has been leveled, Thornton will get close to the Max in his deal, and once that deal is struck SindenCo. will then try to find him some offensive support with the money left. Chances are good that two or more talented free agents with size and hand skills will be brought in to create a new Legion of Doom - and I'll go out on a limb and say that short-term fix John LeClair is one of them. He can be had for cheap once Clarke buys him off, and he'll have something to prove. The other player they sign, will be much younger and better than LeClair with mgt intending to groom a long term chemistry relationship.

- Calgary mgt. will eventually resign themselves to paying Iggy Max or close to it. Iggy will sign for a multi-year deal. Calgary wins cup #2 in the next 3 years. I'm a believer.

- Tampa Bay has three scenarios; sign Big Vinny to a three or more year deal at the Max, or let him go. If they sign him, they CAN'T sign both 'Khabakulin' (Bob speak for 'Khabiboulin') and St Louis.

Scenario one; St Louis go, sign Khabiboulin and Lecavalier.

Scenario two; Vinny is let go, St Louis and Khabiboulin are kept.

Scenario three; Habby-Boo-lin is let go, Vinny and the midget both sign.

Actual result will be; Vincent Lecavalier puts on the Montreal bleu blanc et rouge, Martin St Louis finishes in the top 5 in scoring and Khabiboulin gets them back to the final four.

- Edmonton will find a way to screw things up. Including not signing anyone who can outscore Ryan Smyth. If there is an exception to this prediction, it is Doug Weight - whom Edmonton might actually make a play for.

- Lindros and or Kariya will wear the Maple Leaf jersey.

- Owen Nolan will sign with....Philadelphia.

-The nightmare scenario: All hope for the future of hockey will be exitnguished when Sidney Crosby is drafted by the Minnesota Wild. Jacques Lemaire turns him into Kris Draper - on purpose.

- Dream scenario one: The Canadiens win the lottery and install Crosby on Big Vinny's line.

- Dream scenario two: Detroit wins the lottery in a fluke, and Yzerman decides to stick around for one more year at 41 to tutor him at minimum salary. He is thereafter promoted straight to GM. This dream seamlessly blends with Pittsburgh as well where Mario teaches the young grasshopper how to play offense.

What will actually happen... ok, this I really don't know.

5 years to grow a spine

No, I'm not referring to some breakthrough in stem cell research where the miraculous regrowth of nerve tissue occurs, I'm speaking of the Washington press corps who until very recently acted more like blowfish than the sharks they should be.

Q Scott, you know what, to make a general observation here, in a previous administration, if a press secretary had given the sort of answers you've just given in referring to the fact that everybody who works here enjoys the confidence of the President, Republicans would have hammered them as having a kind of legalistic and sleazy defense. I mean, the reality is that you're parsing words, and you've been doing it for a few days now. So does the President think Karl Rove did something wrong, or doesn't he?

McCLELLAN: No, David, I'm not at all. I told you and the President told you earlier today that we don't want to prejudge the outcome of an ongoing investigation. And I think we've been round and round on this for two days now.

Q Even if it wasn't a crime? You know, there are those who believe that even if Karl Rove was trying to debunk bogus information, as Ken Mehlman suggested yesterday (a totally bogus assertion by Bush lapdog Mehlman:AR) -- perhaps speaking on behalf of the White House -- that when you're dealing with a covert operative, that a senior official of the government should be darn well sure that that person is not undercover, is not covert, before speaking about them in any way, shape, or form. Does the President agree with that or not?

McCLELLAN: Again, we've been round and round on this for a couple of days now. I don't have anything to add to what I've said the previous two days.

Q That's a different question, and it's not round and round --

McCLELLAN: You heard from the President earlier.

Q It has nothing to do with the investigation, Scott, and you know it.

McCLELLAN: You heard from the President earlier today, and the President said he's not --

Q That's a dodge to my question. It has nothing to do with the investigation. Is it appropriate for a senior official to speak about a covert agent in any way, shape, or form without first finding out whether that person is working as a covert officer.

McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, you're wrong. This is all relating to questions about an ongoing investigation, and I've been through this.

Q If I wanted to ask you about an ongoing investigation, I would ask you about the statute, and I'm not doing that.

McCLELLAN: I think we've exhausted discussion on this the last couple of days.

Q You haven't even scratched the surface.
Q It hasn't started.

Another rant for the heads of Bettman and Goodenow

Ray Ratto vents his spleen over the leadership of Bettman and Goodenow. For the most part, it's typical hyperbole from someone who simply doesn't get it.

Firstly, the league is now officially healthier than ever before in history. Bettman's deal (and make no mistake, this is HIS deal, not Goodenow's), ensures that small market teams share in revenue, have a basement of spending, caps the top revenue earners, hard caps the top players, and links revenues to salary moving forward.

Bettman's deal in short, ensures the survival of the NHL by forcing all teams to spend within their limits.

As to the suggestion by Ratto that the failure to hold a season is something to pin on Bettman - I point to the fact that a BETTER deal for the players could have been had prior to the shutdown;, one with; a higher ceiling, a lower basement, and numerous other smaller concessions that Bettman would have made to save the year, but wasn't obliged to make once it was clearly toast.

But Goodenow misread the situation and so we lost a year of hockey. If there is a casuality from all of this Bobby G is the fall guy. When Chelios, Jagr, and other top stars are calling for the Union head on a stick, he can't be long for the role. In contrast, Bettman has the firm support of the key owners, and most of the fans. I don't think he's going anywhere.

As for the state of the fanbase for hockey, let me say this; in Canada this is not a problem. Hockey is our national religion, it is never going away. The fans will come back because we desparately WANT to come back, and this deal will give us even more incentive to do so.

In the US things will be different. But they have always been different in the US. Americans are fickle and flighty in their support for anything save the big three sports (MLB, NBA, NFL) and even those three have seen their support wax and wane over the year (i.e. recent ESPN headline "Can LeBron save the NBA?" - I certainly didn't realize the NBA was in trouble!)

Now that the NHL has turned the corner on its darkest year, it's all going up. With costs under control, everybody can focus on the necessity for growing the revenue pie. That will mean marketing initiatives, etc. As hockey excitement builds in Canada and leaks Southwards, the networks will return gradually and inveitably, and so will the fans.

Three star system discovered to have planets

Hat tip to the Wolves GM for this link.

I'd always thought that with two or more suns planetary formation might not only be difficult in the genesis stage, but extremely difficult to keep them around. The gravitational tug of war between three orbiting bodies is incredibly difficult to navigate (or predict), and planets could be easily flung out of the system altogether. In this case the planet is found to orbit very close to it's parent star, with the other two stars also orbiting the parent star, creating a stable system.


The difference between the True North and the American South

Money quote: (any italics are my own addition)

"Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double that amount of subsidy. But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.
He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.
"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said.
In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.
"Most people don't think of our health-care system as being a competitive advantage," he said.

So there you have it. Toyota picked Ontario because the workers in Canada;

A. Can read.
B. Already have universal health care coverage.

Is this a great country or what?

ESPN breaks down the new deal

EJ Hradek takes apart the new deal. I add my own commentary in between.

...in his Insider Weblog, ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek -- with the help of key sources on both sides of the table -- offered a look at some of the expected terms:

Term: Six years.

AR: Which means we won't have to go through this again till 2011!

Salary rollback: All remaining contracts will be rolled back 24 percent. The rollback will also impact players who must be given qualifying offers for new deals. Those qualifying offers will be based on a player's salary in his last contracted year, minus the 24 percent rollback.
2004-05 contracts: Those contracts will simply disappear from the ledger. Players, however, will be credited with a "year of service." Years of service can determine a player's free-agent status.

AR: Seems fair to me. They lose the money but the keep the year of service.

Salary cap: Each team must meet a minimum, but not exceed a maximum payroll number. For the 2005-06 season, the high-end threshold will be approximately $37-$39.5 million. The low-end threshold will be between $21.5-$24.5 million.
The numbers are based on the league's projection of revenue for the 2005-06 season. The projection is approximately $1.7-$1.8 billion. According to the league, total revenues for the last complete season (2003-04) were $2.1 billion.
If revenues increase, the salary cap thresholds will increase on a season-to-season basis. If revenues decrease, the salary cap thresholds will decrease on a season-to-season basis.

AR: In other words 'linkage'. As revenues rise (or fall), so will player salaries. I had reccomended in an earlier FUNHL post that linkage was the key to creating a partnership between the players and the league. One side does well, so does the other. It's all so kindergarten basic you wonder why they had to screw around for a year to get here, but they finally did.

Buyouts: Teams will be allowed a window of time to buyout player contracts. A player can be bought out for two-thirds of the total remaining value of his contract, minus the 24 percent rollback. A team will not be allowed to re-sign a player they have bought out for a still to be determined amount of time. The money spent to buyout a player will NOT count against the salary cap.

AR: Bobby Holik, John LeClair, Curtis Joseph and some others can expect their buyout checques to be arriving soon. If the Islanders were smart, Yashin would be on this list as well.

Escrow: A still to be determined percent of players salaries will be placed in an escrow account. In the new deal, league-wide payroll can't exceed 54 percent of total league-wide revenue. If league-wide payroll is determined to be more than 54 percent of revenues, the escrow account will be passed back to the clubs. If league-wide payroll is determined to be less than 54 percent of revenues, the escrow account will go to the players.

AR: This just defines the mechanism by which the revenues are 'trued up'. Frankly it's not dissimilar to how my division handles quarterly bonuses.

Individual team-by-team player cap: No single player can earn more than 20 percent of his team's total payroll. For example, a team with a total team payroll of $37.5 million couldn't pay a single player more than $7.5 million.

AR: This is so the Rangers don't sign Jagr to a massive deal, and then pad the roster with minimum salary players. It also holds true for how Mario was previously handling the Pens.

Revenue-sharing: The top 10 revenue clubs will contribute to a pool that will be redistributed to the bottom 10 revenue clubs. The NHLPA proposed a similar revenue sharing component in 1994 during the league's first lockout.

AR: Revenue sharing - geez, how long have we been suggesting THAT!?!? In any case, the small market teams are now officially off life-support.

Unrestricted free agency: It will remain frozen at age 31 for the first year of the new CBA. It will gradually decrease to age 28 during the life of the deal.

AR: Aprox. 10 years of service to your team gets you a free pass to look anywhere you want.

Salary arbitration: The club and the player will both have ability to elect to go to arbitration. Although not confirmed, I believe NHL will go to a baseball-style arbitration system that calls for both sides to submit a salary figure and an arbitrator to decide on one number or the other. There will be a limit on the number of times a team or player can go to arbitration. And, the clubs will have a limited number of times they can walk away from an arbitrator's decision. Under the old system, the clubs could not take players to arbitration.

AR: 'Duh'. The no middle-ground arbitration is EXACTLY the mechanism we have been using in the FUNHL to solve trade disputes since it's inception. That puts us 15 years ahead of the NHL.

Qualifying offers: Players making less than $660,000 must be tendered qualifying offers of 110 percent of their final contracted season's salary. Players making between $660,000.01 and $1 million must be tendered qualifying offers of 105 percent of their final contracted season's salary. Players making over $1 million must be tendered qualifying offers of 100 percent of their final contracted season's salary.

AR: You know compared to what they were making previously this may seem small, but I would probably kill each and every one of my fellow office mates for a chance at $660K yearly salary. Heck I'll even throw in their families too.

Entry level contracts: Entry level contracts will be capped $850,000 per season, with a maximum signing bonus at 10 percent of salary per season. The contracts will be three years in length.

AR: The 'Ovechkin stays in Europe' scenario just got a lot more realistic.

Minimum salary: The minimum salary will be $400,000. Under the old agreement, the league minimum was $175,000.

AR: $400K a year TO START. Nice. Damn do I wish I could skate.

2006 Winter Olympics: The NHL will shut down operations in February 2006 to allow players to participate in the Winter Olympics. To accommodate the scheduling issues, the league will cancel its 2005-06 All-Star Weekend (scheduled for Phoenix).

AR: Like Phx was actually going to have any people attend the All-Star game anyway. The Olympics though is smart. Gotta stay focussed on the big picture, and the 5 ring circus is the biggest advertising for hockey there is.

Let the celebrations commence!

God Damn but this took long enough!

Buckle up poolies, it's going to be a WILD off-season!


Logic of the Zealot

Money quotes;

"Brig. Gen. Cecil R. Richardson, the Air Force deputy chief of chaplains, said in an interview, "We will not proselytize, but we reserve the right to evangelize the unchurched." The distinction, he said, is that proselytizing is trying to convert someone in an aggressive way, while evangelizing is more gently sharing the gospel."

Hmm, so that makes it ok, because it's a 'gentle sharing' of the gospels.

The following excerpt highlights the victim complex evangelicals have;

"The lieutenant is fighting to remain in the military. "The Navy wants to impose its religion on me," he said. "Religious pluralism is a religion. It's a theology all by itself."

Yeah, that's right. Your lack of priviledged status is an imposition.

"Go Baby, Go"

"There is no recovery from mistakes we've made, whether it goes back to the Apollo fire, loss of Challenger or the loss of Columbia. Going back even further to 100 years of aviation, the safety systems that we who fly have learned and know are written in other people's blood," said Griffin, a pilot.

- One of my most vivid memories is of my science teacher approaching me in the hallway of my high school to let me know that the Challenger had exploded during ascent. I watched footage of the explosion the rest of the afternoon in the school library. I was devastated. I wept openly.

Everytime since when I've watched a shuttle or rocket launch (I don't play favourites, I even cheer on the Chinese Taichonauts), I cross my fingers and say the same thing under my breath,

"Go baby, Go"

Paid to Lie

The following exchange occured today in the WH press briefing. The context is that after two years of an investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA agent married to a US diplomat (Wilson), two reporters facing extended jail time for not revealing their sources (Cooper and Miller), and a boatload of denials from the WH, the culprit turns out to be none other than Turd Blossom himself, Karl Rove.

I actually feel bad for Scott McLellan. His job is to do one thing, and one thing only, disseminate favourable press for the Pres., White House and GOP (in that order). Part of that job means that he will have to lie through his teeth about things and take the heat for them later. In previous press conferences (when the media was far more aquiescent - not unlike dogs rolling over to get scratched), McLellan categorically denied that Rove had any involvement and further indicated that Bush and his staff were eager to get to the bottom of the leak and fire the person responsible.

Now that the leak turns out to be Rove (as part of a smear campaign against the diplomat Wilson for denying the existence of WMDs in Iraq and specifically the purchase of Uranium 'yellowcake') suddenly the WH is clamped shut.

Fire someone that close to the Pres? For breaching national security? I can't wait.

Q -- (Isn't true that you indicated as...) of September 29th, 2003, that it is simply not true that Karl Rove disclosed the identify of a CIA operative? Can you stand by that statement?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I look forward to talking about this at some point, but it's not the appropriate time to talk about those questions while the investigation is continuing.

Q So should we take that as a yes or a no?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Dick.

Poor Scotty. You could just see the guy start to sweat howitzer shells as the press got more aggresssive. Like George Stephanopolous before him (when he was asked about Lewinsky) It's the eventual fate of all spin doctors that they get caught telling a whopperwith cameras rolling.

And the cameras never blink.

Liberalism vs. Totalitarianism

An excellent Reason article that highlights the ongoing political philosophy disconnect between the Pan-arabists and the 'West'.

What goes unmentioned is that while the US is representative of the 'West' and Liberalism, it is also undergoing it's own mini-test of authoritarianism, and the polls aren't very favourable.

Chinese evolution

Censorship is an arms race of sorts. On one side the desire for information outside of public control, on the other, the forces of conformity, political obeisance, moral rectitude etc. In this article on the Chinese internet, we see a little of how this arms race is playing out.

Inevitably, censorship fails. But the length and effort that the Chinese govt. is taking to maintain central authority is nothing short of staggering.

My own suspicion is that market forces will eventually crack the Chinese firewall. Ideas and money will flow in and out of China, and they and their people will be a fully functioning organ of the international community.

But that doesn't mean that others won't backslide...

Money quote:

"Our political system is vastly different from China's," Finkelstein says, "but if we had a national panic, if we felt we had to censor the Internet, it's scary how easily it could be done. There's a famous saying, 'The Internet considers censorship to be damage, and routes around it.' I say, what if censorship is in the router?"

David Frum gets one right

Normally I think of Frum as a lugubrious hack who sold his soul to work for the corporate machine in the US as a mouth-piece for the ultra-conservatives.

However, his dissapointment with Muslim reaction to the recent London bombings, and to terrorism in general is one I share.


Turd blossom

I just love Karl Rove's nickname. Nothing could be better.

William Saletan on Al-Qaeda

Just think, if the US hadn't been obsessed with Iraq;

Afghanistan would now be under total military control instead of just Kabul
The man power necessary to find Bin Laden would be available
The US could have bombed Zarqawi's bases instead of holding back in preparation for the invasion

And just maybe the Spanish, London and Bali attacks wouldn't have taken place.

I'm all for hunting BL to the ends of the earth, 24-7 until he is caught, put on trial and sentenced in a court of law. I am still a supporter of the Afghanistan invasion, and believe it was both a bold move, and the right one (probably the last time you'll ever hear me say that about Bush, might want to mark that one down).

But Iraq? What a waste.

Ratzinger's lackey lashes out at Evolution - a post-literary response

A lot of jargon to wade through before you get to the money quote;

"Evolutionary theory, the culture of the Catholic Church can argue, is a misnomer. What we as Catholics oppose is the ideology of evolutionary theory imposed upon us by a secular scientific community. The call for a feminist, post-modern or post-colonial science could (and has) slipped silently into a call for post-scientific science. " Acephalous

New US Flag proposed

Maybe if the troops were fighting under this in Iraq instead of the stars and stripes they would be closer to victory. Cuz God just LOVES a good flag you know.

Quote of the Day

"The politics of failure has failed. We must make them work again!" Kang (Simpsons)

TSN Draft predictions

Obviously these are not based on team preferences yet, so you can expect some of these players to move substantially from their current rankings.

The only given is that Crosby is #1 on everybody's list.

I won't predict that he will go higher than his current ranking, but if I had the 2nd pick overall I'd be instructing my scouts to take Gilbert Brule over Benoit Pouliot or Jack Johnson.

So far the big wild card of the draft looks like Anze Kopitar. He's got the classic wild-card bio, high skill, speed, offensive ability, etc., that reminds me of Marian Hossa in his draft year.

I recieved a request from Richard B (a GM from the defunct SuperLeague) to discuss the potential of Crosby skipping the NHL (and it's sure to be rookie salary cap) for more lucrative offers overseas. So here is my best guess;

1. Crosby doesn't want to play overseas - he wants to be in the NHL period. So far that's the consistent vibe from him, his family, and his agent.

2. It might depend on who drafts him. If it's Montreal, he'll stay for sure. If it's Nashville, maybe not so sure.

3. There is a cap exception possibility for 'franchise players' (once again the FUNHL is 7 years AHEAD of the curve), and whoever selects Crosby might decide it's worth it to give him the 'Franchise' tag so they can give him enough bucks to stick around. Given his salary wouldn't count against the cap, this may be the way all future mega-stars in waiting are addressed.

I also think it highly likely that if he isn't franchised out of the draft, he will be once his first deal runs its course.


Richard Morgan's 'Woken Furies'

I have just finished the latest Takeshi Kovacks novel from Morgan. Still absorbing the final chapters. I promise a full review at a later date, but for now let me say that it is much more satisfying than the second Kovacks novel 'Broken Angels', but still less than the genius of 'Altered Carbon'.

All in all I give it a solid 8.5 out of 10.


Media criticism

Andrew Sullivan takes Glen Reynolds to task for the suggestion that media images of violence fuel the terrorism in the same way that covering streakers and idiots running on to the playing field encourages more of that behaviour.

What he misses is the following point; even when you stop showing them on TV, you still get streakers and idiots running on the field, maybe not as many, but it would be naive to think they will vanish. What stops isn't the act of violence but the reportage of it.

A media blanket on terrorism violence would not only be irresponsible for the reasons given in Sullivan's response, but it would also not actually end the violence. You would have the worst of both worlds, violent subversive terrorist acts and a paranoid, centrally censored, media state.

Ironically, that is the ulitmate goal of terrorism. Not the effect of the violence itself, the body count is not irrelevant to terrorism, but it isn't the point of terrorism - the actual aim of it is to generate a totalitarian reaction that perversely serves to justify the terrorism.

In the case of the London bombings and 9-11, the terrorists goal is still the old Marxist ideal of revolution, even if that ideal now speaks in Farsi and dreams of a utopian pan-arabian Caliphate rather than a Worker's Paradise.

Nobody seriously thinks the terrorists can ever defeat the US or GB. Nobody seriously thinks they can defeat even a city like New York or London. The plan is much simpler. Create havok and watch the governments defeat themselves.

Which is why the subdued Brit reaction of the last few days is so much more gratifying than the American 'War on terror', 'with us or against us' rhetoric.

Healthy debate on evolution theory

I stumbled across this when visiting 'Pandas Thumb' http://www.pandasthumb.org/, it's a debate between two sci blogs regarding the New Republic article I linked to an earlier post called 'Conservatives and Evolution'.

I haven't taken sides on which blog is winning the day in the argument (it is quite long and goes back and forth between blogs), but I thought I would offer my responses to the questions posed by Todd Zywicki in his post on PT as a way to whet the appetite;

<>But if the problem is the influence of religious belief over science, then there is a more important point here that is relevant--the left (such as The New Republic, which conducted this survey) plainly have their own "religious" beliefs when it comes to scientific questions. If we understand "religious" in this context along the lines of "unquestioned truths taken on authority" that render "taboo" certain scientific topics of inquiry or which is impervious to rejection by evidence, then it is plain that in some areas the left has elevated "religious" belief over scientific inquiry by turning certain scientific questions into unquestionable articles of faith, rather than open questions subject for scientific inquiry.

AR: TZ isn't explicit yet what topics he thinks science has ruled 'off-limits', but his questionaire is revealing.

Here's a list of questions on which I suspect that if asked of leading leftist intellectualspolitical leaders would reveal among some of them the triumph of their "religious" faith over scientific inquiry:

1. Are differences between men's and women's aptitudes solely a result of society and culture, or is there an evolutionary basis for some of those distinctions?

<>AR: The answer is the latter. Obviously genetics plays a role in our aptitudes as well as society and culture. I despise this artificial philosophical distinction between nature and nurture that TZ is setting up - on the one side he places those who eschew any role for genetics in our differences, essentially a hardcore 'Nurture' position, and the other he fits everyone else under 'Nature'.

2. Do you think that schools should expose children to the scientific hypothesis that evolution has produced innate differences between men and women that partially explains differences in interests and aptitudes, or should they teach that all differences are socially-constructed?

AR: Yes.

-I do think TZ's project is interesting. IMO this snarkiness punctures the condescending tone of the NR piece.

3. Do you believe that Harvard's faculty was correct in censuring President Larry Summers for offering the hypothesis that differential performance by men and women in math and science achievement at elite universities may be in part the result of differential distribution of natural abilities in math and science between men and women at several standard deviations above the mean?

<>AR: Noting first that nothing this openly political was asked in the NR article, my answer to the question is two-fold; one I disagree with censuring him - on freedom of expression grounds, and think it wrong especially in the case of a university personage (prof., assit prof, lecuturer, whatever). For an institution of higher learning to use a weapon like censure is both medieval and repugnant. Two, I think he was intemperate, and even inaccurate in some of his statements. At the least he was 'undiplomatic'.

4. Do you believe that the theory of evolution applies to the evolution of mental traits as well as physiological traits?

<>AR: Yes. Though I admit to feeling queasy at the thought of how this will all play out. Science in general and evolution in particular don't have a great history when it comes to avoiding the taint of racisim or sexism. With the numbing horror of early eugenics programs and the push to find scientific basis for discrimination against certain races part of the love-hate relationship politics and science have, one cannot blame the scientific community for adopting a blanket 'no significant differences' attitude when it comes to investigating human genetics in the modern world. Who would credibly want to fund or endorse science with the specific aim of denigrating one group for another?

Just as we notice subtle and superficial differences in racial genetics like the presence of an epicanthic fold, we will also find similarily subtle and superficial differences in the genetic probabilities regarding our aptitude to run faster, or farther, to play chess, to have bigger or smaller breasts or penises, to be tall or fat, even to be alcoholic or not.

On the whole though, these differences between races are trivial when compared to the benefit our diversity gives us as a species, and to the bond this mutual genetic heritage has between us.

If Darwin (and the Human Genome Project, etc. etc.) have taught us anything at all, it is that no matter our apparent differences we are all human, and we are all kin.

Deprogramming the masses since 1547

This is a level of faithful self-delusion the ID proponents can only dream of exhibiting.

My hats off to them, they've raised denial from a religion to an art-form.

Enter the Flat Earth Society. For over five hundred years humanity has believed the "round Earth" teachings of Efimovich and his followers. But all hope is not lost. For through all that time, a small but diligent band of individuals have preserved the knowledge of our planet's true shape. And now, after centuries in the Dark Ages, we believe that mankind as a whole is once again ready to embrace the truth that has forever been the Flat Earth Society. Using whatever means are deemed necessary and relying heavily on a callous disregard for the lives and well-being of our members, we have slowly but steadily been spreading the news.

But why? Why do we say the Earth is flat, when the vast majority says otherwise? Because we know the truth

Tempel 1

6 minutes before impact on it's surface, this is what our probe saw coming towards it from the darkness of deep space.

On mice and men and violence

Can we be that far from identifying 'natural born killers', and even perhaps treating them with gene therapy?

Of course, the reverse could also happen, like Government intervention into a soldiers genetic code to make them more capable of ultra-violence.


What's your theological worldview?

I scored a marvelous 86% for Modern Liberal - and an equally marvy 86% for 'Emergent / Post modern'.

Shows you how good an internet test is. I should have scored 100% Heretic / Infidel / Unbeliever.

Worried about comet impacts? Strike back!

Conservatives and Evolution

Three main questions (there are several variations) that the article asks of a variety of conservatives, and that I answer for myself below;

Do you believe in Evolution; Yes

What do you think of 'Intelligent Design'; Less than I think of the Flat-Earthers. ID proponents are simply people with a religious worldview threatened by the success of non-religious explanations for mankind. I get them. They are wrong, but I understand where they are coming from. Flat Eathers don't even have God to blame on for their whackiness. Those bastards are not only wrong, they are FEARLESSLY batshit crazy wrong.

Should ID be taught in schools?; By all means, teach it in your Sunday Schools.

- Of the respondents, David Frumm has an unusually meally mouthed answer about not wanting to offend 90% of Americans by encouraging evolution in the classroom. Is this because he feels Americans can't handle the truth? Is it because American religious convictions are so weakly established that a high school biology teacher reading from a state sponsored text book is going to threaten them? Is it because as an elitist snob he prefers the masses to remain ignorant and content with their opiate?

Or is it that he himself knows the truth - that evolution belongs in the classroom and that ID does not, but in defference to his new masters on the religious right, cannot bring himself to say it?

Bad day in London

In support of the fine Brits on this terrible day, and in terms used in the handy article I've attached cheerfully celebrating those things British, I add my own two cents:

The Queen's English - Fuck Yeah!
The Sandbaggers - FUCK YEAH!
For gracefully allowing the patriation of our Constitution - Fuck Yeah!
David Hume - FUCK YEAH!
Stephen Hawking - FUCK YEAH!

Here, here, Right-on, Cheeri-o, stiff upperlip and all that.


Slate has a look at the history of the vibrator

In 1917 there more vibrators in American homes than toasters. Now there is a factoid to drop at the next party.

Sen. Katherine Harris - Fla R ?

This is the same Katherine Harris who stepped in for Bush during the Florida recounts. Her payback is to get the GOP nomination for the Florida Senate.

Maybe the Celestial Drops are working, I don't know, but recent polls show she is going to get clobbered, and the GOP (other than GWB) are concerned about having hitched themselves to her wagon.


"Big black Nemesis, parthenogenesis...." - Shriekback

Many examples of female parthenogenesis abound in nature, but the fire ant has developed both female and male versions of asexual reproduction.

The mind-blowing fact is that neither the males nor the females exchange dna despite their shared living arrangements, as both lineages progress purely through cloning.

Religion and politics a bad mix - for both sides

Ironically the only reason I can think of for supporting the mixture of religion and politics is that it ends up eroding support for religion.

The Swing Decisions

Wow. With hardcore conservative Rehnquist holding on to this mortal coil with one hand, moderate O'Connor's decision to leave is just...not good.

Gonzales is the name on everyone's lips, if only because Bush likes him.

The link is to an analysis of some of the decisions that O'Connor was the swing vote in.

The most terrifying rumour I've heard is that Bush gets to replace both, and makes Gonzalez the Chief Justice to boot.

Then I remembered I live in a country that just legalized same sex marriages, and I laugh.