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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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And you thought the "one Click" patent was dumb

Good news on the invention front.
An amusement apparatus including a user-operated and controlled apparatus for self-infliction of repetitive blows to the user's buttocks by a plurality of elongated arms bearing flexible extensions that rotate under the user's control. The apparatus includes a platform foldable at a mid-section, having first post and second upstanding posts detachably mounted thereon. The first post is provided with a crank positioned at a height thereon which requires the user to bend forward toward the first post while grasping the crank with both hands, to prominently present his buttocks toward the second post.
abstract United States Patent 6,293,874
via collision detection


Opting Out

Interesting article in the Times which I found linked at Caterina's. It looks at the growing disillusion - in the true sense of that word - women are apparently feeling with what their MBA's and LLb.s actually cash out to,
''I don't want to be on the fast track leading to a partnership at a prestigious law firm,'' says Katherine Brokaw, who left that track in order to stay home with her three children. ''Some people define that as success. I don't.''

''I don't want to be famous; I don't want to conquer the world; I don't want that kind of life,'' says Sarah McArthur Amsbary, who was a theater artist and teacher and earned her master's degree in English, then stepped out of the work force when her daughter was born. ''Maternity provides an escape hatch that paternity does not. Having a baby provides a graceful and convenient exit.''
new york times magazine
It is an article which actually addresses the real issues highly intelligent, extremely well educated women have to face when choosing between high powered jobs and raising children. And it is an article which needs to be carefully read. There are smart, articulate women's voices here,
It's not a scientific sample, but it is a continuing conversation, and a surprising amount of the talk is not about how the workplace is unfair to women, but about how the relationship between work and life is different for women than for men.

''Sometimes I worry that we're really just a little bit lazier,'' Sears says. ''But in my heart of hearts, I think it's really because we're smarter. Maybe evolution has endowed us with the ability to turn back our rheostat faster, to not always charge ahead after one all-consuming thing. To prefer a life not with one pot boiling but with a lot of pots simmering; to prefer the patchwork quilt, not the down comforter. Oh, God, would you listen to these domestic analogies? Are they really coming out of my mouth?''
They are as they are out of the mouths of any number of women who would rather savour the simmer than quick fry their lives.


The Funniest Ebay Auction Ever

via Donald Sensing
Beenie Babies...Get Over it


You will remember Craig Docksteader's note to me about the ex-Report staffers claim for severance and holiday pay. He said they had no claim against the Citizens Centre:
United Western Communications employees (including myself) have a legitimate claim against the corporation and it directors. They have no claim against the Citizens Centre, which is an 8-month old non-profit corporation with no employees prior to July of this year.
UWC was the company which, in theory, published Report magazine.

An alert reader remembered a press release issued by the Citizens Centre April 3, 2003.
The Citizens Centre Report, which was formerly published under such
titles as Alberta Report, B.C. Report and Western Report, was founded in 1973 by Ted Byfield, a well-known publisher and columnist, who transferred ownership of the magazine to the Citizens Centre for the token sum of $100 on March 31.
This transfer of ownership is confirmed in a column Link Byfield wrote in his May 2003 column in the newly-monthly Citizens Centre Report magazine (page 6).
"The magazine formally switched ownership on March 31, when Ted Byfield sold United Western Communications Ltd. to the non-profit Citizens Centre for the token sum of $100." (no link available)

Now, I don't have the details of the transaction - it could have been a share deal or it might have been the simple sale of the magazine asset of United Western Communications. And the legal position might turn, to a degree, on the exact nature of the transaction which would be determined in about ten minutes of Discovery. However, Link himself is pretty clear that the ownership of the magazine was shifted to the Citizens Centre March 31, 2003.

I assume this would have been when Kevin Steel's business card was changed.

Continuing to hide behind UWC is just not going to work for Link Byfield or the Citizens Centre. It is well past time for them to make, at a minimum, a good faith payment to their ex-employees before spending money trying to tell Albertans how to run their pension funds.

Cheap Shot

Warren Kinsella is cancelling his subscription to the National Post - along with lots of others. He cites two reasons - the fact they are running Anne Coulter's column and the fact they are running Colby Cosh's. I have no opinion on Coulter. I don't read her and am not very interested in starting. I would assume that her rather odd right wing views would be balanced by the inclusion of Maureen Dowd's remarkably silly left wing ones.

I was surprised at Kinsella's really visceral feelings about Cosh,
Cosh, meanwhile, is someone I dislike - and vice-versa, naturally (he calls me his "adversary;" personally, my rule of thumb is that actual adversaries are only those who rise up to your level). I was astounded that the Aspers would hire someone like him. I am quite certain he costs a lot (a lot) less than Mark Steyn - but Steyn had a panache, and an intelligence, that Colby Cosh could not achieve in a lifetime of trying. Cosh clearly aspires to be Mark, but Mark he is not.

I marvel, too, that the Post apparently paid scant attention to Cosh's recent past as Senior Editor at Report, which was a mean little publication based in my home province. For many years, plenty of us were certainly of the view that Report was anti-native, homophobic, misogynistic and borderline anti-Semitic. (On the last point, the defunct magazine's May 8, 2000 edition actually contained an article suggesting there existed a secret "kosher tax," a canard long favoured by anti-Semites around the globe. And in April 2002, the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission found, after a lengthy investigation, that the magazine had published material that indicated "discrimination against the Jewish people." ) So Cosh's addition to the Post was bad enough - but Coulter's inclusion in the Post's editorial pages made the cancellation decision an easy one.
warren kinsella
Kinsella seems to have two points here. First, that Colby is not Mark Steyn. Second, that a magazine Colby worked for did not subscribe to prevailing political orthodoxy and, on occasion, veered into anti-semitic territory. Kinsella's second point is why I long ago stopped reading Reports. Once Ted Byfield's steadying hand was removed from the tiller the danger of reading right wing hate propaganda grew significantly. But so far as I am aware, none of this bile flowed from Colby's rather more urban conservative pen. Working for a magazine is not the same as endorsing all or, for that many, any of its loonier editorial positions. It is pretty contemptible to smear someone whose writing and positions are anything but homophobic or anti-semitic using the most McCarthyist of tactics: guilt by association.

Kinsella's first point, that Colby is not Mark Steyn is simply fatuous. Of course Colby isn't and there is no reason to believe that Colby or the Post is under any such delusion. Colby's pieces rely on solid reporting, a Western perspective and a general appeal to reason which is never amiss in a columnist. Admittedly, Colby's pre-occupations are often with events which occur out of line of sight of the CN Tower and that may disturb ex-Albertan Kinsella.

My suspicion is that Kinsella, as a Liberal operative, is more than a little worried that the sensible, well-researched material which Colby pumps out is the sort of stuff which will take the policy debate on the Right out of the hands of the Anne Coulters and David Frums and ground it in everyday reality. Running against ideological idiots and religious zealots is a heck of a lot easier than trying to justify, to pick a couple of examples, half the Liberal Cabinet accepting favours from a family which is asking for favours from the Federal government or sending our troops into harm's way in the military equivalent of a Pinto.

I enjoy Kinsella. He is a happy political warrior. When he stoops to this sort of sleazy personal attack it suggests he is more worried than he wants to let on.

Reptillian Kitten Eater Redux

You might think the brainiacs running John Tory's campaign would have learned a bit from Ernie Eves.....but noooo. This sort of website does not attract any voters; but it can sure drive lots away. (via James Bow)


Here is another installment in the science books series. A wonderful book for anyone who enjoys prehistory and the West Coast:
Lost World: Rewriting Prehistory-How New Science is Tracing America's Ice Age Mariners
By Tom Koppel
Atria Books hc 299 pp, $41.00

How did the early people of North America get here? The stock answer is that they walked over the Bering land bridge which existed thousands of years ago. Just one problem with that theory: recent geology has proven that the path south from Alaska was blocked by a sheet of ice up to a mile thick during the period the migration had to have occurred.

For ten years Saltspring Island writer Tom Koppel has been following the unfolding archeological puzzle of the First Peoples in North America; but his interest goes back to a cabin he rented just behind a beach at the head of a bay on a West coast island which was build on a midden, a pile of shells thrown away after thousands of years of native seasonal shellfish harvesting.

If the land bridge is out, the only other route which could explain the signs of human habitation over 11,000 years old which are found all over North and South America, is a coastal route. The problem with this explanation is that, because during the last Ice age the sea levels were several hundred feet lower than they are today, most of the likely locations of artifacts from this migration route are under water.

Koppel's Lost World leaves tantalizing hints. Up and down the Pacific Coast, archeologists have been finding indirect evidence that, while the Cordilleran ice sheet ran right down to the North West Pacific Coast, there were small areas which were not overridden by ice. And there were offshore islands, including the Queen Charlottes, where the ice never came at all. These refugium dotted the Coast and would have provided stop over places for a sea borne migration.

The archeologists in Koppel's book are a frustrated lot. The clear signs which would make the case for human habitation on the Coast and establish the sea borne migration are four hundred feet under water. Only recently has the imaging technology, swath bathymetry employing a multibeam sonar, come available to accurately examine the basic geography of likely sites for human habitations. With that technology has also come the archeological version of the Lucky Dip-dropping a clamshell bucket over the stern of a research vessel and grabbing the sea floor in a likely spot hoping for artifacts.

Koppel has a magazine writer's knack for personal detail and covers the background of the coastal digs. He lets the experts describe their understanding of just how ancient Asian peoples may have floated to America in short, well planned, island hops.

Lost Worlds can't quite prove the sea voyage version. Instead Koppel takes us to the brink of discovery and leaves us, like the marine archeologists, waiting for next year or the year after's dig.


Google Frolics

Looks like this blog and the sidebar with articles is finally being googled all the way through. Searches such as "why was invading russia a mistake of napoleon's?", "byfield citizens center" and my personal favorite, "Artillery patron saint", are bringing googlers in droves...welcome.


Light blogging

I am in the midst of trying to get a spate of projects finished and billed before the projected arrival of either Kate or Max whose prospective mother assures me should happen between now and the 15th of November....technically the due date is November 7th which makes this the one day Susan and I can realistically plan dinner and a movie. so there may be some light blogging days from here on out. The arrival will be blogged; but not, if I have anything to do with it, the birth itself.


Distinguishing between Evil and Idiocy

Kathy Shaidle points to an article in Foreign Policy in which Mark Strauss details the rise of conspiracy driven anti-semitism. It's a great article and well worth reading. It even mentions Canada
In Canada, a lecture by anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist David Icke was advertised in lefty magazines such as Shared Vision and Common Ground. (?Canadians voted down free trade and we got it anyway,? said one woman who saw the ads and attended the event. ?So there has to be something to that.?)
foreign policy
There are two items here - the first is how impressed I am that Strauss could manage to find a strand of anti-semitic coherence in David Icke. Now Icke is a guy who makes a very good living explaining how the Royal Family, the Trilateral Commission, the Knights Templar and the Duchess of Malfi are all, in fact, lizards dedicated to preserving the good eating that the human species offer. No doubt Icke is certain that Jews are a special sub-species of lizard but life is very much too short to imagine why.

The second point is about Common Ground and Shared Vision. For my sins I am one of the several dozeen people who used to edit Common Ground and I have know the folks who edit Shared Vision. Neither magazine rises to "lefty". Common Ground's owner and publisher, Joseph Roberts is anti-American, anti-corporate in an unthinking, knee jerk sort of a way. And, like many leading edge boomers, Roberts spent the best years of his life opposing the war in Viet Nam from just north of the 49th parallel. So he is reflexively anti-war. However, he and the various people who have edited and owned Shared Vision tend to be of the "Let all Just Try to Get Along" school. This is not politics, it is a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Like most businesses, both magazines have a hard time making a go of it and they take advertising from every sort of sandal wearing, alien channelling, astrology believing, nut eating wing nut whose cheque stands half a chance of clearing. They will even run features on people who buy a full page ad. But neither magazine is in the slightest bit anti-semitic and it is a bit unfair to suggest that their mush headedness rises to that abhorrent level.

Where's my tinfoil hat?

30Years Since Egypt’s Victory Over Israel
Hassan Tahsin, Special to Arab News
To mark the beginning of Ramadan a feel good story about how the Egyptians just, well, crushed those pesky Israelis...It's a wonder there is a Jew left in the Middle East after the drubbing they took in the killing fields of the Sinai. Go see Paul Jané for a through, and delightful, fisking of this amazing display of Arab delusionalism.

A question

Have any of the ex-Report staff done a corporate search on United Western Communications. I notice that in Craig Docksteader's reply he refers to it without the customary "Ltd." or "Inc" that - when hiding behind a corporate shell - one normally uses. Link Byfield used the same words in the Sun article but I wrote that off to the fact he was likely speaking informally on the phone. And it might be worthwhile for one of the staffers to take a boo at their cheque stubs - if any - to see whether the Ltd/Inc appears.

there is some remarkably sloppy talking and writing coming out of the Centre. It may well be that the "company" they are huddled behind either does not exist or is not up to date or was disolved on the takeover of Report by the Citizen Centre.

In every case, however, the nexus of connection is established by Link's clever press release killing the magazine. After all, only the owner can give that particular order.

More fun from the Citizen Centre

I guess being called rude did not agree with Citizen's Centre gunsel Craig Docksteader. Here's his reply to my letter noting Link Byfield's remarks to the Calgary Sun:

United Western Communications employees (including myself) have a
legitimate claim against the corporation and it directors. They have no
claim against the Citizens Centre, which is an 8-month old non-profit
corporation with no employees prior to July of this year. Because Link
now works for the Citizens Centre where I am currently employed, I seem
to have become the point man on questions about the status of any
payouts. As such, I have been and continue to be happy to answer any
questions that any former UWC employee has. To the best of my
knowledge, you are not on that list.

Forgive me if I sound abrupt, but I don't think your uninformed meddling
is helping the situation at all.

And here's my reply to Craig,

Happily I am not on that list. And the point I am making has rather more to do with the current activities of the Citizens Centre than the rather specious legal position you are adopting on behalf of Link Byfield.

However, while it may be meddling, it is not uninformed. I quote from the Citizens Centre press release of June 23, 2003.

"There are also financial considerations. Although The Report magazine is thirty years old, it has not been profitable over time. And after the Citizens Centre acquired ownership earlier this year, the first thing we did was turn down a $360,000 federal grant for which the previous owners had applied and which they had received on an annual basis." (Several hundred Canadian magazines receive annual editorial and postal subsidies from Ottawa.)"

This strikes me as pretty solid evidence that there is a potential claim against the Citizens Center as Link Byfield is asserting that the Citizens Centre acquired ownership of Reports magazine.

Before the Centre should be looking at launching any sort of campaign it should be taking care of the responsibilities, legal and ethical, it acquired along with the ownership of Reports.


Jay Currie
Just in case The Centre decides to take down the press release you can see the full text here. The existence of the press release worded in that way, would certainly provide the ex-Report staffers the legal basis to join the Citizens Centre as a defendant along with United Western Communications. then the discovery process would be used to determine exactly what the nature of the change of ownership was.

The legal fencing is hardly the sort of behaviour one would expect from an organization devoted to forstering "individual inititative and personal responsibility."

Litigation, you say

Craig Docksteader seems to think litigating the Report staff's claims for severance and holiday pay is a good idea.
So do I.

The great thing about litigation is that each side has the right to see every bit of evidence. You do this by way of a process called Discovery. And one of the best parts about Discovery is that, depending on what is being plead in the case, a plaintiff can often get complete access to a company's financial records and internal correspondence which pertains in any way to the issues before the Court.

I, for one, would be fascinated to take a peek at United Western Communications' books. Better still, as the Citzens Center is almost certainly a legitimate defendant, a little troll through its books would be on the cards.

Gee, I wonder if the Citizens Center gave money to the company or was it the other way round. Where did the subscription money go, where did the donations go? Oh the fun you'll have to quote Dr. Seuss.

Link Didn't get the memo

So Craig Docksteader in refusing to pass my email about the severence and holiday pay owed to former Reports staff said,

"If they honestly think Link is holding out on them then there is legal recourse available to them. It won't change the outcome by a dime, but perhaps it will end the nonsense."
see link below
Link Byfield is quoted in today's Calgary Sun as saying,
The magazine's staff were employed by United Western Communications and not by the centre itself, which is a separate entity, Byfield told the Sun yesterday.

"I'm not denying that we owe them money," he said, adding that United Western Communications' bank account is virtually empty. "The amounts are not huge, but they're big enough that people will be concerned about it."

The company hopes to get money back from the federal government in the form of a GST rebate, "which will certainly cover some of it," Byfield said.
calgary sun
In his letter to me Docksteader announced that I knew "nothing about this situation"; well, I guess Link Byfield doesn't either because he seems to be telling the Sun that, er, "we" owe them the money.

So pay up Link.


All that needs to be said about Micheal Moore

Crusing blogs tonight I found this linked to a comment at Bree's,
'Dude, Where's My Country' by Michael Moore.
Amazon, you dim fuckers, I bought 'Stupid White Men' as a Christmas present for somebody else. As did everybody. It's the only reason Michael Moore books ever get onto bestseller lists - people buy his unreadable wanky toss as Crimble gifts for that hard-to-gift cranky leftwing-poseur uncle who won't stop whingeing about the state of the world, insists on a Christmas nutloaf, and actually watches the Channel 4 news to the end. You only need read four pages to realise it's entertainment for the modern, socialist-leaning Victor Meldrew.
vanessa's blog

Pendulum: Amir Aczel

I have a lot of science books I am reviewing and, as this blog is not supposed to be entirely about politics, I thought I would post the drafts as they came up. Enjoy....or skip below as is your preference.
Pendulum: Léon Foucault and the Triumph of ScienceAmir Aczel, Atria Books hc 275 pp $36.00

How do you prove that the Earth rotates on its axis? It seems obvious now, you can go on the internet and see pictures of the night line sweeping across the face of the planet and we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun rather than vice versa. But 1851, while the helio centric solar system was largely accepted, the physical proof of Earth's rotation was missing. Even thought there was strong astronomical evidence that the Earth moved through space and spun on its axis, the Catholic Church remained unconvinced. Aristotle said the Earth remained motionless at the center of the universe and that remained the Church position.

Self taught French physicist Léon Foucault was a sickly man living with his mother in Paris. At thirty one, Foucault had not done well in school and was not at all mathematically gifted; but Foucault was passionately interested in science. So much so that one of his jobs was to write up the Monday evening meetings of the Academy of Sciences for one of the Paris newspapers.

Foucault read a lot of science and, according to Amir Aczel, he was aware of the earlier and failed attempts to prove the Earth's rotation by measuring how far from "straight down" a dropped object actually fell. Here, the principle was that the object should fall a little to the East because, during its drop, the Earth would rotate just s smidgen to the West. The problem was that none of the falling body experiments were conclusive and many contained experimental error greater than the actual observed results.

Foucault actually thought of two elegant solutions to proving the Earth's rotation. The first was to use a pendulum in place of the falling body, the second was to invent the gyroscope. A heavy pendulum set in motion at the end of a long line mounted on nearly frictionless gimbals would swing back and forth uninfluenced by the Earth's rotation. Which meant that for an observer standing outside the arc of the pendulum, the pendulum's "plane of oscillation" appears to rotate relative to its starting point. Moreover, Foucault developed an elegant piece of mathematics to describe how the period of this rotation would change depending on how far north or south of the equator the pendulum was placed. (Hint, the pendulum would take exactly twenty four hours to rotate if it swung at the North Pole. It would not rotate at all on the equator.)

Sensation! This was the physical proof the Earth spun, which implied that it revolved around the Sun. Aristotle was wrong, the Church switched its position. Which should have made Foucault a French scientific hero but it didn't. Because the academicians were math whizzes for the most part and experimental science was seen by many of them as mere engineering. It took the intervention of the colourful Napoleon III to even get Foucault a scientific job.

An experienced science writer, Aczel clearly explains the physics and cleverly embeds that science in the fascinating social and political context of France in the middle of the 19th century.

Mo' Weekend

Had a garage sale in the alley yesterday. Perfect day for it. A bit cool in the morning and then, bang, seventy degrees in the sun. Glorious! We were piggy backing on a sale down the lane which had advertising, signs and all the rest. These guys are pros out buying three weekends a month and selling once a month. We are amateurs. But having a slight case of bibliophilia - which should bring Google hits by the hundreds - we had three or four hundred books surplus to requirement and without homes on our shelves. Our pro friends told us that books never sell: well enough of ours did that we were a hundred bucks up on the day. Plus a few bits of kids stuff, a good deal of never worn costume jewellery and assorted odds and ends.

Sam had a great time announcing to anyone who asked that the price was "a dollar". He can count a lot higher than that but, let's face it, a dollar is a lot when you are not quite free. I lounged about in a lawn chair drinking wonderful cappuccinos and thinking just how pleasant a pocket full of toonies and loonies actually feels. We shut down at about one and wandered up to Kerrisdale. Where, big surprise, we bought more books. Home and reading science for a large browser in the Citizen. I am going to post the long form of the reviews here; but the fact is that they will all have to be cut so as to fit six, so far excellent, books in 1250 words.