Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunshine Cleaning

Just saw Sunshine Cleaning. Pretty good--a chick flick with a few twists, a good indie feel throughout, Alan Arkin (again) as an eccentric old man.

You have to laugh at Hollywood. Amy Adams, maybe, without makeup, the girl next door, grew up fairly poor, but with her looks etc. became high-school cheerleader, has somewhat kept living off that glory. It's not exactly realistic, but OK. But Emily Blunt as her younger sister who keeps screwing up, and can't even keep a job slinging burgers? She's an extremely exotic and beautiful woman. No heterosexual male would leave her slinging burgers for long--she could wait tables or hostess at a nice restaurant, or sell real estate or model or something--make serious money, even right out of high school.

Christmas Deaths

There's often something a bit weird about deaths that happen right at Christmas, just before, or just after.

In Newmarket, Ontario, where I live, a lady was driving out of the parking lot at the hospital. To validate her parking ticket, she opened her car door, with the car still in Drive. Somehow her foot came off the brake. She was found with her head trapped between the door and the car, and she has since died. The way things work, the hospital will no doubt have to change their procedures somehow "to make sure this doesn't happen again." Something so unbelievably stupid and unlikely?

In Ottawa, the 24-year-old son of Brian Tobin, former Premier of Newfoundland, killed his life-long friend, also 24, by running over him in a parking garage. Charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous causing death, and driving over the limit causing death. At first I thought they must have been playing some stupid game: we'll take turns lying down on the concrete while the other one drives, and see if you can steer around while getting fairly close. Instead it seems that the victim fell out of the pick-up--either out of the cab, or even more clever, out of the box. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Kind of a Newfie joke. Neighbours say this parking garage was a hangout for drinking and drugging. Congratulations, you've really made something of your lives.

UPDATE Dec. 27: On the Tobin case, one of Canada's best criminal lawyers is now clearly in charge of spinning to the media. My favourite:

The young men spent the evening of Dec. 23 in bars near Ottawa’s trendy ByWard Market neighbourhood. Early the next morning, just before 3 a.m., the two men and at least one other person returned to their rented pickup truck in a nearby parkade. They planned to have a drink of whisky at the truck before taking a cab home, two sources told CTV and The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Zolpis got out of the vehicle, though it’s unclear why. Soon after, Mr. Tobin backed the truck up to park it, sources said. He got out to find Mr. Zolpis trapped underneath. Four days after writing his last exam, the 24-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.

This sounds a lot better than: they were driving in circles just for a laugh--it's not clear why; or they were using each other as human pylons, it's not clear why. The lawyer even covers the earlier coverage: "His lawyer hopes the attention the case is expected to receive won’t derail justice for Mr. Tobin. For instance, he said, it was widely and incorrectly reported his client was stunt driving – driving the truck in circles – on the top level of the parkade when Mr. Zolpis died."

It all reminds me of the Michael Bryant episode. Lots of people sympathized with Bryant. Granted he killed a cyclist while driving his car aggressively, but there had been considerable provocation, and in a convertible with the roof down, Bryant may have felt that both he and his wife were in danger. It certainly would have been interesting to hear details at trial, but it became pretty clear the establishment didn't want a trial.

On Christmas morning, we found a dead mouse in one of our traps--actually kind of caught by two traps close together. For all we know, he had been taught about Santa and all that. The big day arrives, and no Santa--just a big machine crushing him. I'm a big believer in peanut butter as bait, and in keeping two traps close together. The design we have is very much like this.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Boomer Science, Er, Peer-Reviewed

Generally speaking, it turns out, peer-reviewed literature on medical science is substantially bullshit--distorted, cherry-picked data, taken out of context, unlikely correlations built up without solid evidence.

This is what happens when the boomers are in charge.

So it's not true that peer-reviewed science tends to be solid, therefore we should give the climate warmists the benefit of any doubt. Rather, especially with the boomers in charge, it should all be regarded with skepticism.

h/t Judith Curry, who also points to a NYT article.

Meanwhile, Bishop Hill takes us back to the "nuclear scientists" advising Eisenhower in the 50s--people with the best credentials, who were wrong, wrong, wrong.

Madoff winners and losers

Somehow a very American story. Madoff's massive fraud actually enriched some investors--basically, if you invested fairly early, you probably got some pay-offs to maintain the myth that Madoff's funds would be profitable for everyone.

Now the lawsuits are flying. Madoff and his family don't have all that much (although I think they will all be sued, and that may be one reason one of Madoff's sons committed suicide).

So in the search for assets to compensate victims, lawyers have focussed on those investors who actually profited. The argument is: it was all a fraud, whether successful investors knew it or not, so any assets/profits should be divided equally among victims. The counter-argument: how can innocent people be treated as if they are guilty?

Monday, December 6, 2010


On the list of things I have wondered about: does advertising work at all, or in general? Is internet advertising really less effective than advertising in glossy magazines or newspapers (which continue to charge more for ads), or does the internet simply make it easier to realize how ineffective all advertising really is?

h/t Matt Yglesias.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Methane Reserves

1. Maybe a dash for gas would be good--better than the pursuit of windmills and solar panels.

2. Methane under the ocean: the Japanese are determined to figure out how to harvest it. The potential? "immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels."

Seasonal Toys

For those shopping for toys in the near future, the New Yorker has an article discussing the following products:

Lego Tantive IV Star Wars Set; Buckyballs; Tetraxis magnetic geometry puzzle; Snap Circuits; Primary Science Set; the Diet Coke and Mentos Kit; the Mammoth Excavation kit; Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS Blaster; Anker blocks; Harold the Smoking Penguin; Paper Jamz Guitars; Sun, Moon, Stars Drums; the Infant’s Sleep Sound Lamb; American Girl dolls; Barbie Foosball Table; Sophie, the teething giraffe; Call of Duty: Black Ops video game; the Forbidden Island board game; Squinkies; and Beyblade

Most of these names mean nothing to me. Diet Coke and Mentos has some obvious appeal, but I'm sure it would only amuse me for two or three hours, at most.