Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Canada Trip: Ottawa

After two nights in Montreal, I took off for Ottawa, Canada's capital city.  On the day I left, I made one last attempt to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I knew it opened at 11, around check-out time.  I checked out of my hotel after I loaded my car, save for a backpack containing all the valuables I wanted to keep on me.  I walked over to the museum intending to go in, but didn't do it when I saw they were making people check their bags.  I went back to my car and drove to Ottawa.

That night in Ottawa, I ate at The Clocktower Brewery, then went to see Rideau Hall, the residence of Canada's Governor General.  After that I went to see Rideau Falls.  On my way back to the hotel, I stopped at The Beer Store and bought the Okanagan variety pack.  It was pretty good, except for the apricot favored beer.

The next day I did some sight-seeing as  I walked around.  I spent most of the afternoon in the Canadian War Museum, and probably enjoyed that more then anything else I did.  I've always enjoyed history, particularly military history.  It was interesting to learn the early history of Canada, which I was mostly ignorant of.  The museum had several pieces on the battles that were fought around Quebec, so it was interesting to read up on the places i saw around the city when I was there.

The museum had a good amount on Canada's contribution to WWI, and I took a lot of time to go through that.  Since I already know a lot about WWII, I sped through that section and the Cold War end as I was getting hungry and needed something to eat.  After I got something at the nearby Mill St. Brewery, I wanted to do some more sight-seeing, but it was raining, so I headed back to my hotel and turned in early that night.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Morning Videos

"Weird Al" Yankovic has a new album out, Mandatory Fun.  I've listened to most of the songs and it is quite good.  I've been a big fan of his almost since the beginning of his career, back in the early 80's.  It's amazing that he is still around and putting out quality stuff.

His career has had an interesting trajectory.  When he first started out he just did meaningless, silly parodies of hit songs, often just building a song around a slight change to the title; "Beat It" became "Eat it," "Like a Virgin" became "Like a Surgeon," "Bad" became "Fat."  As time went by, his comedy broadened out and he started doing songs that parodied the cultural zeitgeist of the time.

The first song he did this with was "Smells Like Nirvana," by far his best song ever.  He really poked a hole in the grunge movement.  I was a teen at the time, and it pains me to admit this, but I used to love grunge music because I felt like it "spoke" to me, even though I had no idea what anyone was saying.

After "Smells Like Nirvana," "Weird Al" parodied the cultural zeitgeist in songs such as "Headline News" and "White and Nerdy."  With his new album, he has a song in "Word Crimes" which  taps into the frustration many of us have over the ignorance of grammar in our society due to textspeak, among other things.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Canada Trip: Montreal

After the conference was over in Quebec City I headed to Montreal for a stay of roughly two days.  The first day there, I was so exhausted from the conference I did little more then catch up on my sleep.  The next day I got out to do some souvenir shopping and sight-seeing, but not as much as I wanted.  I mostly just walked around the canals to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, taking pictures as I went.

I had hoped to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art, but it was closed on Monday, the day I was there. There were several construction crews there working on some stages.  Initially, I thought they were tearing down the stages and that they were for some event that had been held in conjunction with the Grand Prix, which was run the previous day.  I started cursing myself for having stayed in that night when I could have been attending that event, but then I noticed they were putting the stages up, not tearing them down.  I started to get excited there might be something happening that night, but when I saw the signs for the event, Francofollie de Montreal, I saw the event was several days away.

That night there was a Stanley Cup finals game, so I went to a sports bar thinking it would be packed and raucous.  Instead, it was so dead that when I initially walked by, I thought the place might be closed.  As the game hadn't started yet, I went in anyway thinking the crowd had to come sometime, but nobody came.  I was sad to see Canadians not living up to their stereotype.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Golf Joke

A man and wife were playing in their club's annual "Guys and Dolls" tournament. The man was not happy about having to play, but his wife insisted. On the 12th tee, his patience had reached its limit. While his wife wasted time on the ladies tee, he decided to go ahead and hit his drive from the men's. Unfortunately, he misjudged his shot and his ball hit his wife in the back of the head, lodging the ball deep into her skull.  As he rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital, he pleaded with her to live.  He apologized profusely for losing his patience and told her he wanted nothing more then for her to live so they could spend the rest of their lives together.

When they reached the hospital, she was wheeled into surgery while he waited, crying inconsolably.  When he saw the look on the face of the surgeon who came out to talk to him, he knew the worst had occurred.

"Just give it to me straight, Doc," the man said.

"I'm sorry, but your wife is dead," the surgeon replied.

He started sobbing so loudly the entire hospital heard him.  The surgeon was emotionless as he stood in front of the man.  He had been carrying the forms the man filled out when he arrived, and he began to thumb though them.

"I know this might not be the best time to bring this up, but you said on these forms that you are uninsured."

"Yes," the man replied as his sobbing died down.  "I can't believe what's happened.  Just an hour ago my wife and I were playing golf.  We were happy and had a lifetime together ahead of us.  Now she's dead and I'm going to go bankrupt trying to pay these medical bills."

The surgeon sat down next to the man and looked at him with an expression of the utmost sympathy. "I think you should know that I have the power to make all these bills disappear.  All I need is for you to do a little favor for me."

The man was quite confused by what the surgeon was saying to him.  "And what favor would I have to do for you?"

"Nothing much," the surgeon said with a shrug of his shoulders.  "All I want is for you to play a round of golf with MY wife."

Environmentalism Fail

While writing the earlier post on the unwillingness of climate change believers to reduce their carbon footprints, I remembered this ad from a couple years ago titled "No Pressure."  It shows people who are unwilling to reduce their carbon footprints being gleefully killed, and naturally caused such an outcry it was banished to the far reaches of Hell.

In a way, it's sad the ad disappeared so quickly.  It was from a group called 10:10 global, which was "asking" people to cut their carbon emissions by 10% a year.  A number of rich and big name liberals, such as Prince Charles, publicly supported the initiative.  When the ad disappeared the whole movement fizzled, which is really a shame, because we never got to find out whether all the rich liberals behind the initiative truly reduced their carbon footprints.  While the movement died publicly, that shouldn't have stopped them from trying to save Mother Earth.  Right?

One thing that always got to me about the movement was the fact that the lower classes were supposed to reduce their carbon footprints by the same percentage as the rich.  If you ask me, carbon footprint reduction should follow the same rules as progressive taxation, those with larger carbon footprints should be expected to reduce theirs by a greater amount then those with lesser footprints.  After all, everyone needs to do their "fair share."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Soviet Storm

The series Soviet Storm, which can be found on YouTube, is a Russian series from a few years ago that has been adapted to English.  It tells the story of the Soviet war against Germany from beginning to end.

The war between Germany and the Soviets, or the Eastern Front as it is often referred to, is something that until recently has not gotten the attention it deserves.  With the end of the Cold War, the Soviet archives were opened for scholarly study, and more complete histories of the Eastern Front could be written.  These more complete histories have helped people take notice that the vast majority of German casualties were inflicted by the Soviets.  This has led many scholars to declare the victory over Germany an almost exclusively Soviet endeavor, but it seems to me this is a case of the pendulum swinging too far in the opposite direction from the previous glossing over of the Soviet contribution to the war.

The video embedded below is the third episode of the series, which focuses on the German conquest of Crimea.  It's an especially interesting one because it presents some of the missions carried out by the Soviet navy and air force.  The Eastern Front is almost always presented as exclusively being a land war.  It was interesting to see the contributions of the other branches of the Soviet armed forces, particularly the strategic bombing campaigns carried out by the Soviets against the Ploeisti oil fields.  The strategic bombing campaigns carried out by America and Britain get a lot of attention.  It was interesting to see how the Soviets carried out their own attacks, particularly against the Ploeisti, as the American  Operation Tidal Wave against the oil fields always seems to get a lot of attention in WW2 histories.

The Border Crisis

While reading all the news stories of Democratic governors (John Hickenlooper, Martin O'Malley, Deval Patrick) unwilling to take in the illegal immigrant children surging across the border, it's clear to me the political life cycle I described in the previous post carries over to this issue as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Life Cycle of Liberal Issues

This story on how believers in climate change use more electricity then skeptics is getting a lot of play on certain blogs.  The story helps to highlight the modern day life cycle of liberals on political issues.

  1. Create a problem
  2. Be unwilling to do anything yourself to solve the problem
  3. Use your unwillingness to do anything to solve the problem as a reason for why government has to enforce coercive measures in order to solve the problem.
  4. Undertake coercive measures.
  5. Find a way to either exempt yourself from the above coercive measures, or find a way to have government alleviate the suffering it might cause you.

One interesting point about the linked study is it only looked at home electricity use.  It would be interesting to see how the carbon footprints from travel compare between believers and skeptics of climate change. Here, the liberal believers might look better as more liberals live in cities where there is ample public transportation.  Although, if this is true, it doesn't say a lot about their willingness to make conscious sacrifices.

Of course, what really interests climate change skeptics isn't how much the carbon footprints vary between believers and skeptics in the general population, but how the carbon footprint of the liberal elite compares to everyone else and even those in the same socioeconomic class who are skeptical of climate change. Although, here we don't need a study to tell us that many of the people who believe climate change will be the apocalypse  have enormous carbon footprints.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Canada Trip: Last days of conference

The conference I attended kept us pretty busy and didn't leave a lot of time for sight seeing, but I did skip some lectures here and there so I could see some of the city.  On Saturday morning I skipped the conference in the hopes of seeing the changing of the guard at the Citadel, only to find out it only occurred Monday through Friday at that time.  I still took the opportunity to walk around the outer edge of the city.  I started at the Plains of Abraham, the battlefield where the British defeated the French in 1759 during the Seven Years War.  This battle gave the British Quebec City and control of the St. Lawrence River, which eventually allowed them to conquer Canada.  Surprisingly, there was almost nothing to mark the spot, but this is currently being rectified as the Canadians are in the middle of building something on the site.

I walked along the river taking pictures constantly as I walked.  The view from the hills that encircle the city is just beautiful.  I walked from the Plains of Abraham to the area of Old Quebec that I visited on the first day I arrived in the city.

I finished up my walk that day by visiting the Basilica Cathedral Notre Dame.  The cathedral is currently celebrating its 350th anniversary, as described here.  In honor of the anniversary, a year of Jubilee was declared and a Holy Door was opened, the first one outside of Europe.  For those who don't know, walking through a Holy Door grants plenary indulgence, something that was a major plot point in the movie Dogma. I had no idea this was occurring when I made the decision to go to the conference.  I first learned about it from a story in the travel section of the local paper two months before my trip.  It was a very pleasant surprise.  Walking through the Holy Door was quite an experience, and the inside of the cathedral was ornately decorated and just beautiful.  It's just too bad the Holy Door is only open until this December.  I wish there was a more permanent door on this side of the Atlantic so more people could have the experience I did.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Canada Trip: Conference

The conference kept me pretty busy when I was in Quebec City.  They had talks and events going from sunrise to sunset most days.  The meal breaks and coffee breaks were long enough that I was able to take some time to walk around the immediate area by the congresscenter and do some sight seeing.  The center was near several old fortifications that surround the eastern portion of the city.  While they look medieval, I later found out they were surprisingly built around 1820.  Both the French and British apparently relied on makeshift fortifications despite all the wars in which Quebec City found itself invaded by a foreign army.  It was only after the American invasion of Canada during the War of 1812 that the British became willing to spend the money on the proper fortifications needed to guard Quebec and protect the opening of the St. Lawrence River.

On one of the nights when I walked around the congress center, there was an amazingly beautiful rainbow in the sky.  I got some amazing pictures of it, and I hope to blow up and frame the one shown below.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Canada Trip: Quebec City: Day 1

After spending a weekend in Toronto, I drove to Quebec City for my conference with a one night stopover in Montreal.  As I just needed a bed to sleep in for the night, I got a room at a hostel at the University of Montreal.  The place was hot, a bit dirty, and smelled of marijuana, but it was just a one night stay so I didn't mind.

I left the hostel early in the morning to get out of Montreal before the traffic got bad.  I made it to Quebec City in the late morning and had some time before I could check-in at the place I was staying, so I parked in Old Quebec City near the river.  It was in an area of shops and restaurants, so I walked around there most of the afternoon.  I got some pictures of the river, but am cursing myself now for not getting some shots of the streets themselves.  The only picture I really got was of a mural, shown below.  The place had a very European feel, both architecturally and culturally.  I saw a couple people greeting each other with the European double kiss on each cheek.

The welcoming reception for my conference was that night.  They had a couple Cirque du Soleil style acts to entertain us, one of which was a male aerialist, pictured below, who was just incredible.  We all marveled at the kind of strength it must take to do what he did.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Canada Trip: Toronto

Since I was so busy during my Canada trip itself, I didn't have time to blog about it.  I'm going to be doing so retroactively over the next week.

My first stop on my trip was Toronto.  I stayed in a hotel around the Ed Mirvish theater, where I saw the musical "Flashdance."  I later saw the play "The Last Confession," and will write up reviews of both later.  Besides seeing those two shows I did some general sight-seeing, and tried out a couple microbrews: 3 Brewers and Mill Street Brew Pub.

I had been to Toronto once before, back in 1997 on  a college trip to see "Phantom of the Opera."  I was impressed with the city back then, although, I hadn't seen too much of the city other then the area around the Rogers Center.  When I first arrived and was walking in the area around my hotel, I wondered what happened to the city as it was not nearly as nice as I remembered it.  I found out the next day the areas of the city I had seen before were just as nice and clean as I remembered.