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Date:2007-12-06 14:50
Subject:Quick Update
Security:Public
Mood: relaxed

Well, I haven't been posting here much, but I'll write something again soon. In the meantime, I've started a blog which I somewhat randomly decided to call Wintering in Waterloo. Of course, since I've started posting regularly there, it's gotten very wintry in Waterloo indeed.

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Date:2007-09-12 21:51
Subject:Electoral Reform
Security:Public
Mood: exhausted

To my Ontario friends, I'd just like to remind everyone that not only is there a provincial election coming up on October 10th, but a referendum as well. The subject? Electoral reform!

What does that mean? Well, see the link below:

Referendum Ontario

Also see this brochure.

So, why bother changing the electoral system? How does it work now? If you don't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about (and since I am the lone past political junkie here, I think, I expect that to be the case), I'll field the basics.

Currently, all provinces, territories, and Parliament use the "first-past-the-post" (FPTP) electoral system. Each legislature has X seats, which are filled uniquely by members representing "single member constituencies." So, locally, we vote for a member who represents our riding or constituency. In an election, the candidate with the most votes wins the seats. Note that the winner could have been elected with any percentage of the vote - 35% or 65% - the only requirement is that no other candidate wins as many votes.

What's the problem with this, arguably? Well, under FPTP, we often end up with a party which is able to win a majority of seats, but which has failed to win a majority of the popular vote. For example, the NDP under Bob Rae won the 1990 Ontario election with only 37% of the popular vote, despite winning a majority of seats. Likewise the Liberals won a majority of seats federally in 1993 with only 41% of the popular vote. This was the same election where the Tories were reduced to only two seats, despite winning about 16% of the vote. Even worse (arguably), a party can sometimes win a majority of seats while winning fewer votes than the largest opposition party. This happened in Quebec in 1998 and BC in 1996.

Another problem is that the largest parties under FPTP are typically significantly overrepresented in legislatures, whereas smaller parties are underrepresented or fail to win any seats. That's how the Tories ended up with only two seats in 1993 with 16% of the vote, but the Bloc Quebecois became the Official Opposition with 54 seats and only 11% of the vote. Something a bit fishy about that, in my opinion at least. FPTP tends to reward parties with regional concentrations of votes (like the Bloc and Reform/Alliance from 1993-2000) at the expense of parties with more evenly distributed support (the NDP, the Tories from 1993-2000, and, of course, the Greens).

The objection to FPTP rests on a fairly straightforward principle - a party should only be able to control a majority of votes in Parliament when it was supported by a majority of voters in an election. This almost never occurs under FPTP, so this has led many to consider changing the system to some form of proportional representation (PR). Under PR, the share of seats won by a party in the legislature is roughly the same as its share of the popular vote. Since a single party rarely wins a majority of the vote, the results are more minority governments (such as we currently have federally) or coalition governments, where two or more parties govern jointly. Coalition governments have produced decades of stable rule in countries like Germany and Sweden, both of which use variants of PR.

In "pure" PR, there are no local constituencies at all. Instead every party nominates a list of candidates who are elected in accordance with their ranking on the list and, of course, with the party's share of the popular vote. The lists are known in advance and, in some cases, voters can rank the candidates themselves. On the other hand, the system proposed for Ontario is called "mixed-member proportional" (MMP). In Ontario, this would require the size of the legislature to be increased somewhat to 129 seats. Of that, 90 members would still be elected from single-member constituencies by FPTP. However, the remaining 39 seats would be filled by list members, nominated well ahead of election day by the parties. The result is that you'd get two votes: one for your local riding member, and one for the party you prefer. Your preferred local candidate needn't be from the party that you'd prefer to see in government.

So how does this work?

In the end, a party's share of the total seats (129) should roughly agree with its share of the vote. So if Party A wins 40% of the vote, it should receive about 52 seats. But if Party A wins only 45 local riding seats, it's fallen short of its due share. Thus it wins a further 7 list seats, for a total of 52. Conversely, if Party B wins 20% of the vote, it should receive 26 seats. But suppose Party B wins only 10 local seats; then it gets 16 list seats.

However, a party would have to cross a minimum threshold to qualify for list seats - it would need to win at least 3% overall, a restriction designed to weed out potential "fringe" or single-issue parties.

Anyway, I'll leave you to think on that. I support electoral reform, so that's my bias. However, if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them from as much of a neutral standpoint that I can provide.

Update: Check out this CBC audio feature on electoral reform here.

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Date:2007-09-10 21:36
Subject:Fire and Blood
Security:Public
Mood: tired


Your Score: House Targaryen


81% Dominant, 63% Extroverted, 72% Trustworthy



Ancient. Noble. Passionate to the point of insanity. Transcending lesser beings, you are of House Targaryen.

You are a dominant personality—in fact, you are the most dominant of all eight house types. You will not suffer yourself to be ignored. You will not suffer yourself to be ruled. The phrase "I will not suffer myself to _____!" was practically made for you. You are willful, arrogant, and exceedingly dangerous to screw with. With a temper like yours, anyone stupid enough to saunter into your line of fire won’t soon forget their mistake.

You are also extroverted, which means that everyone in the world knows exactly what your intentions are. Unlike your cohorts (who hide behind smiles and courtesies and court politics), you think of it as your birthright to come riding in on an enormous dragon, breathing fire and fucking your siblings. Hey, what you lack in subtlty, you make up in style!

Finally, you are trustworthy. Your absurd amounts of power and borderline psychosis are not used unjustly. Unlike many, your general aims are just and true. You we bred for rule, and the fact that you cannot rest until you are doing so is not your fault. If you make up your mind, it becomes reality. Never one for empty threats or vainglorious lies, you can only speak the truth. And the truth is "fire and blood."

Representative characters include: Daenerys Stormborn, Rhaegar Targaryen, and Viserys Targaryen

Similar Houses: Baratheon, Lannister,and Tully

Opposite House: Frey

When playing the game of thrones, you play it to the death.

Link: The Song of Ice and Fire House Test written by Geeky_Stripper on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


*****

Well, I'm not sure I agree with all of that, but I can't say I'm not pleased.

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Date:2007-07-13 14:15
Subject:Lord Black to be sent to the Tower
Security:Public
Mood: awake

I haven't been following the Conrad Black trial much at all - mainly because legal questions of tax/mail fraud and obstruction of justice aren't all that electrifying - but I have been interested in the verdict.

Well, there is one:

Former media baron Conrad Black has been found guilty of obstruction of justice and three counts of mail fraud, a Chicago courtroom was told Friday morning on the 12th day of deliberations.

Black was said to have remained expressionless as the verdict following the nearly four-month trial was read.

The nine-woman, three-man jury found the Montreal-born Black not guilty on nine other charges, including mail fraud, wire fraud, racketeering and tax fraud.

The conviction could mean a lengthy sentence for Black, who 62 years old. Obstruction of justice carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, while each mail fraud charge carries a maximum prison term of five years.

Black could also face a penalty of up to $1 million US.

Black's three Hollinger International co-defendants, Jack Boultbee, Mark Kipnis and Peter Atkinson, were all convicted of three counts each of mail fraud, meaning they could each face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000 US.
Now, I'm not about to dial up the schadenfreude and say that I'm glad that this self-important, hubristic twit has gotten what he deserves, but, well, I suppose I can't resist saying that. For a wannabee and eventual aristocrat like Conrad Black, Baron of Crossharbour, I suppose the rules of lesser men need not apply. He'll probably appeal this verdict, leaving, as ever, the lawyers as the only winners.

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Date:2007-05-19 00:00
Subject:Addendum
Security:Public
Mood: awake

Along the same theme as yesterday, consider this:

OTTAWA – The Harper government is being accused of a Machiavellian plot to wreak parliamentary havoc after a secret Tory handbook on obstructing and manipulating Commons committees was leaked to the press.

Opposition parties pounced on news reports Friday about the 200-page handbook as proof that the Conservatives are to blame for the toxic atmosphere that has paralyzed Parliament this week.

"The government's deliberate plan is to cause a dysfunctional, chaotic Parliament," Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale told the House of Commons.

[...]

The handbook, obtained by National Post columnist Don Martin, reportedly advises chairs on how to promote the government's agenda, select witnesses friendly to the Conservative party and coach them to give favourable testimony. It also reportedly instructs them on how to filibuster and otherwise disrupt committee proceedings and, if all else fails, how to shut committees down entirely.

Some of those stalling tactics have been on display this week.

Tory MPs on the information and ethics committee stalled an inquiry into alleged censorship of a report on the treatment of Afghan detainees. They debated the propriety of the witness list for more than five hours while two critics of the government's handling of the matter cooled their heels in the corridor.

The official languages committee has been shut down all week after Tory chair Guy Lauzon cancelled a hearing moments before witnesses were to testify about the impact of the government's cancellation of the court challenges program. All three opposition parties voted to remove Lauzon from the chair but the Tories are refusing to select a replacement, leaving the committee in limbo.

Tories have also launched filibusters to obstruct proceedings in the Commons agriculture and procedural affairs committees and a Senate committee study of a Liberal bill requiring the government to adhere to the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions.
So all that stuff I talked about yesterday? It's all part of the plan.

And that's contemptible. So are the current leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada and their witless minions following the directives of this "handbook".

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Date:2007-05-17 19:28
Subject:The Princeps is a liar and a hypocrite
Security:Public
Mood: annoyed

But don't believe me, just listen to Paul Wells:

I am sure I will hear from several readers who hate the Official Languages Act, don't care what happens to francophone minorities outside Quebec or anglophones in Quebec, want the whole issue to rot. Fine. But that's not what Stephen Harper claims. Stephen Harper claims to care more about linguistic minorities and to do more about official languages than previous governments. And he's lying.
I encourage everyone to read the full article. Harper will never miss an opportunity to label his opponents as incompetents or hypocrites or whatever insult is the flavour of the day. But you know what they say about people who live in glass houses.

So what else has our Dear Leader been up to? Well, consider this. Okay, that's not exactly a fair comparison. (though that clip reminds me that I should both read (again) and watch I, Claudius, along with Rome of course.

Now for something more worrisome:
At that point, Tory MP Leon Benoit, chair of the Commons Standing Committee on International Trade which was holding the SPP hearings, ordered Laxer to halt his testimony, saying it was not relevant.

Opposition MPs called for, and won, a vote to overrule Benoit’s ruling.

Benoit then threw down his pen, declaring, “This meeting is adjourned,” and stormed out, followed by three of the panel’s four Conservative members.
And that's not all:
(Official Languages Commissioner) Fraser's report comes on the same day a political spat forced the House of Commons official languages committee to shut down.

After opposition members teamed up to vote out Conservative chairman Guy Lauzon Tuesday, the government said he will not be replaced, and committees cannot sit without a chairman.

Government whip Jay Hill said the rules say the chair has to be a government member and he's not going to allow the opposition to dictate who that will be. [Ed. Actually, Lauzon had been stonewalling the committee by cancelling scheduled meetings during which the government's policies would be put under the microscope.]

During question period Tuesday, opposition leaders slammed Harper for what they said was an attempt to muzzle MPs from questioning the government's policies on official languages.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion called on the prime minister to name a new chair immediately.

"The prime minister doesn't like the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms], he kills a program supporting it," Dion said. "He doesn't like official languages, he kills a program supporting it. He doesn't like being questioned by members of this House, he kills committees."
And you know what? Dion is right. All of these guys may be politicians but, for once, we can tell the liars and hypocrites from those interested in things like responsible government, transparency, and accountability.

So, if it was not already clear, I don't like Harper. At all. He's a venal control freak who embarrasses us on the world stage by running a government incapable of handling the Afghan detainees issue. Oh, and he's also a vain dandy who travels around with a personal "image advisor" who "helps him perfect his look, including managing his wardrobe and general grooming" - at the government's expense, of course.

That's right - we're paying for Harper's style advice. Setting aside the principle (this is not a service any previous PMs have enjoyed), given Harper's helmet hair and record of ill-fitting attire, I don't think we're getting our money's worth.

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Date:2007-05-09 19:49
Subject:Sigh...
Security:Public
Mood: restless

Watch this and despair (it concerns creationist re-education (re-Neducation?)):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnxQiCg9qpg

Though the picture of the dinosaur pulling a plow (or cart or something) was kinda funny.

Anyway, what struck me most were the two self-righteous teens interviewed near the end. One claimed to aspire to be a biochemist working at some sort of creation "science" institute. He also wanted to win the Nobel prize, thus joining the likes of Pauling, Watson, Crick, Wilkins, Einstein, Banting, and many other scientists interested in the pursuit of knowledge about the real world. Another teen told the interviewer point blank that she was ignorant and that her education had been insufficient - after all, teens are far better equipped to reason things through than adult documentary filmmakers.

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Date:2007-03-22 12:59
Subject:The Sun!
Security:Public
Mood: cheerful


You are The Sun


Happiness, Content, Joy.


The meanings for the Sun are fairly simple and consistent.


Young, healthy, new, fresh. The brain is working, things that were muddled come clear, everything falls into place, and everything seems to go your way.


The Sun is ruled by the Sun, of course. This is the light that comes after the long dark night, Apollo to the Moon's Diana. A positive card, it promises you your day in the sun. Glory, gain, triumph, pleasure, truth, success. As the moon symbolized inspiration from the unconscious, from dreams, this card symbolizes discoveries made fully consciousness and wide awake. You have an understanding and enjoyment of science and math, beautifully constructed music, carefully reasoned philosophy. It is a card of intellect, clarity of mind, and feelings of youthful energy.


What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

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Date:2007-02-18 18:07
Subject:Britney Spears has gone off the deep end
Security:Public
Mood: tired

The deep end of what, I'm not sure:

WASHINGTON–Pop star Britney Spears got ready for the weekend by shearing all her hair off and dropping by a Los Angeles tattoo parlour, where she quickly drew a crowd.

The Friday evening visit to the Body and Soul shop in the Sherman Oaks district of Los Angeles came on the same day People magazine and other entertainment media reported that Spears, 25, had recently entered a rehabilitation centre in Antigua and checked out a day later.

Spears' representatives could not be reached for comment on the rehabilitation reports, but the Access Hollywood entertainment news outlet cited a representative denying them and saying she was not in rehab.
(link)
More pictures here.

*****

So, why am I posting on this? Well, everyone probably has heard about this already, thanks to CNN's (and the media generally) penchant for celebrity "news" in place of things that actually matter. Sure, we all need a break from the serious and often dismal and depressing real world, but there is a point at which it becomes a grotesque circus; certainly the coverage of the untimely passing of Anna-Nicole Smith (and the ongoing and increasingly bizarre question of her baby's paternity) falls into that category.

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Date:2007-01-30 23:14
Subject:Meet the Wood Spider
Security:Public
Mood: amused

Remember those old "Hinterland who's who" TV spots, each profiling an animal of some sort?

Well, here's a new take, featuring the industrious Wood Spider.

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Date:2007-01-29 11:18
Subject:Rock Bottom
Security:Public
Mood: tired

You may have heard about (or seen) the Conservative Party's new attack ads aimed at Ste´phane Dion. I think they're pretty lame, uncalled for outside an election campaign, and otherwise shows that Harper and co. have never heard of the old adage about people living in glass houses. Anyway, the ads use the sort of selective editing and lack of context present here, though they lack the disclaimer, "Dramatization: may not have happened".

Ah well.

Update: From a letter to the Star today:

So, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion met with limited success pushing policy as the environment minister while working under a prime minister whose priorities lay elsewhere?

Shocking.

Has former Tory environment minister Rona Ambrose sent Dion a sympathy card yet? Hallmark ought to tap the growing "I'm sorry you looked incompetent because your prime minister didn't care about your portfolio" market.

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Date:2007-01-26 00:00
Subject:Offered without comment
Security:Public
Mood: tired

A lecture is the transfer of information from the notes of the lecturer to the notes of the students without passing through the brains of either.

Okay, one comment... that's certainly how I often feel!

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Date:2007-01-16 01:50
Subject:The Verdict on Pan's Labyrinth
Security:Public
Mood: tired

Here follows a review of Pan's Labyrinth:

Pan's Labyrinth

Going into Pan's Labyrinth, I hadn't really known what to expect. I'd heard it was a "dark fantasy" and, more strikingly, the reviews were almost uniformly favourable, rating a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, I'd seen a few TV spots and posters showcasing the dark imagery you might expect from such a fantasy film, and I knew the movie was in Spanish. But otherwise I knew nothing about the plot, the characters, or even much of anything about the premise. All the same, those laudatory reviews probably produced some high expectations in me.

Spoilers aheadCollapse )

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Date:2007-01-11 19:33
Subject:George Costanza on Louis Pasteur...
Security:Public
Mood: tired

So I'm doing a little assignment for Cell which requires looking up the contributions of various scientists to the development of Cell Biology. I go to the Wikipedia page for Louis Pasteur, and, of course, the following Seinfeld dialogue (from "The Pick") comes to mind:

SUSAN: I just don't think we have anything in common.

GEORGE: That's okay. That's good. You think Louis Pasteur and his wife had anything in common? He was in the fields all day with the cows, you know with the milk, examining the milk, delving into milk, consumed with milk. Pasteurization, Homogenization, She was in the kitchen killing cockroaches with a boot on each hand.

SUSAN: Why were there so many cockroaches?

GEORGE: Because. There was a lot of cake lying around the house. Just sitting there going with all the excess milk from all the experiments [grins]

SUSAN: And they got along?

GEORGE: Yes! Yes. You know. She didn't know about Pasteurization. He didn't know anout Fumigation. But they made it work!

I'm straining to think of a more random argument for George getting back together with Susan.

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Date:2007-01-07 23:27
Subject:Thoughts Delayed
Security:Public
Mood: awake

While I was away, I wrote some entries which I can post now that I'm home. So here they are - I'll write again soon!

### Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas-time thoughts:

- Is it just me or is having a beer early in the morning a sign of alcoholism? I ask because on the plane to TO, there was a 20ish couple across the aisle from me (the girl looked even younger, in fact), and the guy ordered a breakfast combo which included a Canadian. At this point, it was about 7:50 am, and having a beer for breakfast on a flight no more exotic than Halifax-Toronto strikes me as simply gross and questionable. I suppose I shouldn't judge, yet if I'd been in the girl's place, I'd have been none too pleased.

- Today we visited the new Canadian War Museum; I'd been there before, but Daniel hadn't. The museum's exhibitions are in no way propagandistic (is that a word?) or otherwise political. As we should expect, they are presented with an eye to historical accuracy and detail, with sections going from pre-colonial and early colonial history, the Boer and First World Wars, the Second World War, and the Cold War. Some of the exhibits were pretty affecting, but most heartrending of all was a teddy bear carried by a soldier during the First World War. It belonged to his daughter, and was found on his body after he was killed. Accompanying the bear was a letter from his son - words that he never got to see before he died. Another 60,000 Canadians perished in that war; sadly, that's only a small fraction of the total number of people killed in "the war to end all wars".

Anyway, if you happen to be in Ottawa, I'd urge you to check out the museum.

- This was the first Boxing Day in a few years where I've largely avoided the malls; a good thing, in my view. At a certain point, there's only so much commercialism I can take around Christmas (or anytime), and braving the throngs searching for Boxing Day bargains is not my ideal way of spending my vacation time. Don't get me wrong; great bargains can be found, but I'm seldom needing to get more shiny things (or even useful things like new sweaters), especially the day after Christmas.

- I also find lately that there aren't all that many new shiny things that I want. Of course, I'm always happy to receive more books and I wouldn't complain about DVDs, flat-screen televisions or a myriad of other gadgets. But it's not all that important and, often, I think I enjoy getting things for other people more. There is a certain magic to finding the perfect gift for someone - sometimes things work out very well and you get lucky and other times it's simply a matter of putting some care into it. Of course, the opposite can be true and a very funny Globe and Mail article this month pointed out some gifts appropriate for people you hate or are otherwise displeased with, mostly along the lines of getting something that's really intended for yourself (along the lines of Marge Simpson's bowling bowl engraved with "Homer").

### Monday, January 1, 2006

The weather this past month has been weird - a self-evident observation if there ever was one - but given that my Christmas visit to Ottawa is typically frozen and white, that it was a balmy 8 degrees on Boxing Day didn't feel quite right. It's been a bit colder since, but on this first day of the new year it was once again balmy and wet. Yay, global warming! (Of course, being a statistician, I wouldn't want to extrapolate long term trends from a single season of abnormal weather, but the general climactic trends are, sadly, undeniable.)

Otherwise, having Wi-Fi is convenient in Toronto, but the actual service (at Starbucks, for example) is bloody expensive - $7.50 for an hour or $13 for a day. A plan's in the works to provide free wireless access points throughout the city (the ISPs oppose this, of course), which will be very nice once it comes online - basic internet access seems as much a public good as anything.

A few other quick points:

- The grim execution of Saddam Hussein was one of the more surreal events in recent memory. The death penalty issue aside, there can be denying the assassinations, murders, and massacres Hussein employed to stay in power. Yet there were significant questions about his trial, its fairness and whether it was about justice as much as it was about revenge, the latter of which would seem to be in ample supply of late in Iraq. In a wider sense, our hopes after Nuremberg that no one - no politician or head of state - would be left above the law have long since faded. Pinochet's victims never received justice, and the likes of Thatcher happily excused all the "disappearances" under his regime. (But I suppose they were just Communists... the same sort of rationale used when Hussein was "our thug" fighting (and gassing) those Islamic Revolutionaries in Iran.)

- Almost anytime that I've met a music student (most recently Kevin's friend Esther), I've been asked whether I'm related to the pianist Glenn Gould. For the record, I'm not, unless there's some very distant connection I'm unaware of. The thing is, "Gould" is not an especially uncommon surname, but I guess it's just uncommon enough.

- Last, I want to wish everyone a very happy new year (whether I'm able to post this today or not!). May it be safe, productive, and fun - not necessarily in that order. May you all find ways of making the little things a bit more special while enjoying what life has to offer. Be well everyone!

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Date:2006-12-15 18:43
Subject:Eragonian Comments
Security:Public
Mood: tired

Before I jump on Katie, Elyse's, and Suman's bandwagon, I offer some amusing blurbs about the latest fantasy movie, Eragon:

"A load of generic mush perhaps best served as a piece of bitchin' '70s van art."

"I liked Eragon's story so much more when it was called Star Wars. Heck, I was waiting for a Wookie to pop up."

"The characters are full-on clichés spouting wooden lines, given no time to develop as the film races from one silly conflict to another."

"For those who love the fantasy genre known as sword and sorcery -- and I count myself in their number -- sitting through the movie version of Eragon will suck the will to live right out of you."

"It's mostly just a bunch of actors trying to look involved while attempting to act through their bad wigs and Studio 54 reject outfits."

And last, but certainly not least:

"Been to that galaxy, done that ring."

I *was* kinda sorta interested in the movie (if for no other reasons than to see Jeremy Irons hamming it up with John Malkovich as the villain), but now... it appears I've seen it before, many times. Of course, the fact that Eragon has received a whopping 15% on Rotten Tomatoes is not encouraging, even ignoring the actual words of the reviews. I do still want to see Casino Royale, though!

For the time being though, I have heredity to study for.

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Date:2006-11-27 01:51
Subject:The Fountain
Security:Public
Mood: tired

I've lately been impressed by trailers for The Fountain, directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. The visuals and general look of the film are impressive, including a novel lack of CGI in the effects sequences. The images gave little idea about the plot, other than a setting shifting between a fantastical past (where Weisz apparently plays Queen Isabella!), the present, and a rather whacked-out future. Anyway, it looked cool, and still looks cool, yet...

Yet... this review from the Hollywood Reporter worries me. Why? The author likens it to Zardoz. Now, if you've seen Zardoz, you'll appreciate why this worries me. But if you haven't, I will simply say that a ponytailed Sean Connery runs around through most of the film wearing an orange diaper-like costume. Oh, and the film ends with a wedding, in which Connery wears a full-length wedding dress. Yes, his early post-Bond years in the 1970s did not represent his finest hour.

In any event, I encourage everyone to watch a small segment from Zardoz, courtesy of YouTube. Sad to say, I've actually sat and watched this movie (thanks Wayne!), though I definitely didn't keep my eyes open throughout. I suppose if you've ever wanted to see a powerful drug-induced hallucination c. 1974 put to film, Zardoz may be for you.

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Date:2006-10-20 21:30
Subject:Peter MacKay ought to pay attention in class
Security:Public
Mood: amused

Now, we've all had some occasion to be caught not paying attention, but I imagine most of us hope that zoning out in class is something we'll grow out of eventually. Evidently Peter MacKay has yet to reach that point:

Government Programs

[Translation]

Mrs. Vivian Barbot (Papineau, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage answered with a
firm “no” when asked if cuts had been made to theatre and dance troupes. Yet,
those troupes are telling us otherwise, that they have in fact suffered
cuts.
Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs please tell us
whether or not cuts have been made to these troupes?

[English]

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, CPC): Mr. Speaker, obviously, we are involved in this
with 36 other countries. (groans and snickers) This is a deployment of
troops
(laughter increases) that is involved in interesting and
important work to provide security for the development of the work that is
undertaken. (laughter peaks) If the member wants to be a little more
specific, perhaps she could provide us with that information.

[Translation]

Mr. Maka Kotto (Saint-Lambert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the question was not about
military troops. It was about theatre, dance and music troupes. (more
laughter)
I ask the question again: will the cuts to the public diplomacy fund affect the
international tours of dance, music and theatre troupes, yes or no?

[English]

Hon. Bev Oda (Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women,
CPC): Mr. Speaker, I want to be clear because the
other day this same member asked a question with inaccurate information. Again,
dance troupes and performing troupes will continue to be able to
tour.
Yesterday, this member talked to me about museums
that were going to have their funding affected. I asked him to give me the name
of the museum affected. He has yet to do that. We are going to ensure that our
cultural communities do enjoy our support.
See yesterday's Hansard. The laugh track provided here.

Of course, Thursday was a rather bad day for MacKay, as he was also alleged to have called Belinda Stronach a dog.

*****

In other (and happy!) news, Roger Ebert is back writing reviews and lets us know how he's been doing. From the sound of it, he was actually in pretty bad shape for a while, though he's now on the mend (his treatment for salivary cancer isn't over yet, though).

Meanwhile, he gave glowing reviews to two movies about queens, past and present: Marie Antoinette and The Queen. Both look worth seeing, despite any misgivings I have about Sofia Coppola's somewhat contemporary take on the former.

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Date:2006-10-06 17:23
Subject:My time has come...
Security:Public
Mood: sick

To be sick, that is. It's been a while and, not surprisingly, it's leaving me worn out, exhausted, and achy, complete with a nasty sore throat. But enough about being sick - it ought to pass before long.

So, due to popular demand and my own desire to write here again, I present a new LJ entry!

I'm now one month into my second year as a grad student. Already I'm finding the workload pretty intense, though perhaps a bit more manageable than first term of last year. My (likely final) math course is Numerical Analysis, from which the main lesson so far is that small errors can cause BIG problems later on. Oh, and solving a linear system of 500 variables using a particular method takes about 35 seconds, but bumping that up to 5000 variables will take around 10 hours. So we might want to try a different method. My other course is Heredity, taught by Sara Good-Avila. She's very nice and though a bit fast in the lectures, everything's posted online and the texts are helpful. This being my first biology course, as well as my first non-math course in over a year, it's been something of an adjustment, as math doe. There's so much information, so many terms, so much jargon, and Sara's exams aren't all easy - in fact, my first midterm this past Monday was almost half again as long as it should have been for the 50 minute time slot - I spent an extra 20 minutes on it, and several others were still writing when I left.

Apart from classes, my days have consisted of meetings - with my Karsten and Teismann (my supervisors), Catherine Stanley concerning calc studios, Senate, and the AGSA - and otherwise have been devoted to working and not much else (well, apart from my usual internet-based procrastination). On one hand, I'm glad to focus on my work, but it would be nice to break things up a bit more with socialization. (Fortunately, the math department is pretty congenial, and people tend to sit around in the lounge chatting a fair bit.) One thing I intend to take advantage of more often is the standing invitation to the University Club for grad students every Friday afternoon. I probably would've gone today had it not been for this blasted cold.

As an aside, Karsten is usually at the Club Fridays, but I haven't seen him dance there in quite some time. It's a sight to see, I tell you! Rather retro, you might say.

I'd like to post here more often over the next few months and beyond. I want to keep in touch with friends more - this may be one way. Apologies if this post seems a bit disjointed - there are a lot of little thoughts bouncing around in my head and hopefully I'll get to them in another post this weekend.

One last thing - I think I'm becoming increasingly absent-minded when it comes to keys and other such objects. The other day while packing up in my office, I suddenly couldn't remember where I'd put my keys. Where were they? Why, in my right hand, of course. So bad...

(And, no, I haven't gotten to the state of forgetting that I'm wearing my glasses, though I have been known not to notice that I'm not wearing them (though that was after many drinks).)

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Date:2006-09-22 22:36
Subject:As if there was any doubt...
Security:Public
Mood: tired

I am nerdier than 92% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Sigh... ;)

*****

I promise I'll write a real entry soon. (And I need to fix the broken picture link below.)

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