"Why bail out the car companies when they bailed out on us?"

Much has been written about the possible bailout of Detroit auto manufacturers — by Greg Mankiw, The Economist here and here, Baseline Scenario, Salon and Richard Florida here and here, to name just a few — and nearly everything I’ve read points to the bailout being a terrible idea. The American car manufacturers have been classic examples of mismanaged companies (see the chart above from Professor Mark Perry) who would rather lobby against change than profit from it.

This could be the first big test of character for soon-to-be-president Obama. If he bails out Detroit without serious conditions attached (he’s made preliminary statements to this end, but nothing at all concrete) it would only be for political reasons

Except maybe Nutchos.

A lot of things remind me of Christmas, and a lot of them are obvious: wreaths, carols, wrapping paper, and so on. Over the years these things have turned into indicators of the Christmas shopping season, and not particularly pleasing to me. What still makes me smile are memories of past Christmases, especially from my childhood, which were fairly unique to my family. My mom’s chocolate-covered peanut butter balls. The spruce tree we’d get when most people got fir or pine. My Dad’s homemade ice cream. The light-up porcelain decoration, now long gone, that Mom left on the old TV one year, melting a hole through the plastic top of the TV case. And maybe strongest of all…

Toffifee.

I never think about this stuff, and we never have it anymore, but as a kid we’d have it every Christmas, and I loved it. When Esquire wrote about it today it instantly made me want Christmas. It’s not the strongest memory indicator of Christmas I get, but it might be the only one that reminds me only of Christmas and nothing else.

Al Strachan just reported that Alex Ovechkin has stepped down as player for the Washington Capitals

Apparently Brian Burke has stepped down as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks. This is good news for Toronto sports writers, in that it will allow them to fill their flamillions of column inches and never-ending radio shows with idle, boring speculation. It’s also good news for Leafs fans, as it will distract them from the reality that their team sucks, and will fill them hope for the Stanley Cup rings that Brian Burke is reputed to carry in his pockets.

I expect the Sun to publish the 2010 parade route in tomorrow’s edition. Mind all the (ha ha) waterfront construction, lads.

And you? Any plans to reclaim your life in 18 years?

Attention parents who wink, smile slyly and ask, “So…when are you going to have some little ones?”: stop it. Think, people…given how obsessed you are about your own kids, don’t you think that if we became parents we’d mention it?

Seriously, I think I’ve reached my breaking point. The other day someone at work I barely know asked me if I’d “be giving my mother any grandchildren soon.” I replied that I might, and asked her how much they’re going for these days. I know the import market is pretty wide open, I said, but the shipping charges must be a nightmare.

Granted, it takes a while for people to get used to my sense of humour, and I think I may now be on file with our HR department. But it was worth it.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the people I like the most are the ones who never ask me. Not because they know better, but because they’re interesting people who can muster a conversation about more than one topic.

The Man From Athabaska

A Robert Service poem, one which I first learned by hearing Country Joe MacDonald’s musical version:

“Oh the wife she tried to tell me that ’twas nothing but the thrumming
Of a woodpecker a-rapping on the hollow of a tree;
And she thought that I was fooling when I said it was the drumming
Of the mustering of legions and ’twas calling unto me;
‘Twas calling me to pull my freight and hop across the sea.

And a-mending of my fish-nets sure I started up in wonder,
For I heard a savage roaring and ’twas coming from afar;
Oh the wife she tried to tell me that ’twas only summer thunder,
And she laughed a bit sarcastic when I told her it was War:
‘Twas the chariots of battle where the mighty armies are.

Then down the lake came Half-breed Tom with russet sail a-flying
And the word he said was ‘War’ again, so what was I to do ?
Oh the dogs they took to howling and the missis took to crying,
As I flung my silver foxes in the little birch canoe;
Yes, the old girl stood a-bubbling till an island hid the view.

Says the factor, ‘Mike, you’re crazy! They have soldier men a-plenty.
You’re as grizzled as a badger and you’re sixty year or so.’
‘But I haven’t missed a scrap,’ says I, ‘Since I was one and twenty.
And shall I miss the biggest ? You can bet your whiskers — no!’
So I sold my furs and started … and that’s eighteen months ago.

For I joined the Foreign Legion and they put me for a starter
In the trenches of the Argonne with the Boche a step away;
And the partner on my right hand was an apache from Montmartre;
And on my left there was a millionaire from Pittsburgh, U.S.A.
(Poor fellow! They collected him in bits the other day.)

Well I’m sprier than a chipmunk, save a touch of the lumbago,
And they calls me Old Methoosalah, and blagues me all the day.
I’m their exhibition sniper and they work me like a Dago,
And laugh to see me plug a Boche a half a mile away.
Oh I hold the highest record in the regiment, they say.

And at night they gather round me, and I tell them of my roaming
In the Country of the Crepuscule beside the Frozen Sea,
Where the musk-ox run unchallenged and the cariboo goes homing;
And they sit like little children, just as quiet as can be:
Men of every clime and color, how they harken unto me!

And I tell them of the Furland, of the tumpline and the paddle,
Of secret rivers loitering, that no one will explore;
And I tell them of the ranges, of the pack-strap and the saddle,
And they fill their pipes in silence, and their eyes beseech for more;
While above the star-shells fizzle and the high explosives roar.

And I tell of lakes fish-haunted where the big bull moose are calling,
And forests still as sepulchers with never trail or track;
And valleys packed with purple gloom, and mountain peaks appalling,
And I tell them of my cabin on the shore at Fond du Lac;
And I find myself a-thinking: Sure I wish that I was back.

So I brag of bear and beaver while the batteries are roaring,
And the fellows on the firing steps are blazing at the foe;
And I yarn a fur and feather when the marmites are a-soaring,
And they listen to my stories, seven poilus in a row,
Seven lean and lousy poilus with their cigarettes aglow.

And I tell them when it’s over how I’ll hike for Athabaska;
And those seven greasy poilus they are crazy to go too.
And I’ll give the wife the ‘pickle-tub’ I promised, and I’ll ask her
The price of mink and marten, and the run of cariboo,
And I’ll get my traps in order, and I’ll start to work anew.

For I’ve had my fill of fighting, and I’ve seen a nation scattered,
And an army swung to slaughter, and a river red with gore,
And a city all a-smolder, and … as if it really mattered,
For the lake is yonder dreaming, and my cabin’s on the shore;
And the dogs are leaping madly, and the wife is singing gladly,
And I’ll rest in Athabaska, and I’ll leave it nevermore,
And I’ll leave it nevermore.”

But I like it bright when I do my dog-walking…

Every night when we turn off the lights, it feels like there’s still a lamp on somewhere in our condo. The lights at Moss Park, nearly a kilometre away, are so bright that I wouldn’t be able to sleep in any room facing them without drawing the blinds. They stay on all night, whether or not anyone’s on the field. This seems like a colossal waste of energy.

I understand that maybe it’s a safety issue, to keep the park lit, but wouldn’t one stand of lights be enough?

"You and me both, man. That thing is lucky I'm not armed."

Wired published an article last week called “Five Useless Gadgets You Should Throw in the Trash Right Now.” Setting aside the environmentally-unfriendliness of that for a second, I wonder how reasonable it would be for the average person to eschew everything on that list. I’m pretty accepting of technology, but all other things being equal I won’t adopt something — or get rid of it — if doing so constrains me. Their list was:

  1. printers
  2. scanners
  3. built-in optical drives
  4. fax machines
  5. landline phones

There’s only one thing on that list I could entirely live without: fax machines. I don’t own one but I have to occasionally use one for work, but only when there’s no other way. I always put up a fight before resorting to faxing. I rarely use my scanner (usually it’s in an attempt to avoid faxing…I scan and email a signed document) but I wouldn’t even bother to own one unless it was built into my printer. Speaking of which…I don’t use my printer that often (a standard 500-sheet pack of paper will last me a few years) but there are still enough cases where I can’t avoid it, like boarding passes until everyone sorts out the emailed/texted version. Optical drives are something else I barely use…when I got my new computer I installed some software from CD, but only because there’s where I had it. I’m sure I could have downloaded most of it just as easily. In this case it cost me nothing to include a CD writer and would have saved me nothing to take it out, and at least this way I can still make CDs for my dad, so I got one.

The landline phone seems to be the one I can’t get rid of. I suppose this is mainly because I don’t have a mobile. With my Blackberry (which isn’t voice-enabled) I haven’t needed one, and wouldn’t get one just to replace my landline. While I know lots of people who do use a cell instead of a landline, I think Canadian mobile pricing makes it a less attractive option here than elsewhere.

By the way, that title is one of the lines from Office Space, when Samir and Michael want to kill the printer/copier. When I checked imdb to verify I had the line right, I noticed that pretty much every line in the film is listed in the ‘memorable quotes’ section. Here’s my suggestion for how to quantify the ‘cult-ness’ of a movie: (imdb memorable quote page length) ÷ (movie script length).