Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Brexit, a Fraxit, A green and yellow baxit!


That's my lyrical contribution to the lunacy that's overtaken the world since Friday morning. It's not as original as the first 9/11 limerick, which I had the honour to compose, but I still think it's worth preserving.

For all the spin about the "very narrow" margin of victory, 52% to 48% is a decent win. Narrow would be .01% either way, a matter of a few thousand votes. This was over a million, and can't be hand-waved away.

Today the stock market is going up, so it looks like the financial temper tantrum is over the worst. But the political temper tantrum is just getting started, with open discussions on how to cancel the results of this referendum.

This is the sort of reckless lawlessness that leads to domestic terrorism and revolution. Mark Steyn has written many times about how essential it is to have freedom of speech, if for no other reason that to allow people to safely vent frustrations:
Nick Lowles defined the ‘No Platform’ philosophy as ‘the position where we refuse to allow fascists an opportunity to act like normal political parties’. But free speech is essential to a free society because, when you deny people ‘an opportunity to act like normal political parties’, there’s nothing left for them to do but punch your lights out. Free speech, wrote the Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson last week, ‘buttresses the political system’s legitimacy. It helps losers, in the struggle for public opinion and electoral success, to accept their fates. It helps keep them loyal to the system, even though it has disappointed them. They will accept the outcomes, because they believe they’ve had a fair opportunity to express and advance their views. There’s always the next election. Free speech underpins our larger concept of freedom.’

Just so. A fortnight ago I was in Quebec for a provincial election in which the ruling separatist party went down to its worst defeat in almost half a century. This was a democratic contest fought between parties that don’t even agree on what country they’re in. In Ottawa for most of the 1990s the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was a chap who barely acknowledged either the head of state or the state she’s head of. Which is as it should be. Because, if a Quebec separatist or an Australian republican can’t challenge the constitutional order through public advocacy, the only alternative is to put on a black ski-mask and skulk around after dark blowing stuff up.
"Cancelling" the results of this referendum tells people the truth: that all the talk about Holy Democracy is a lie. That their doom is to lose forever and watch their enemies smirking in triumph. And you're telling it, not to a fringe group of basement-dwelling misfits, but to 52% of the population, and that percentage the mature, invested segment that a society depends upon to keep things going. If you want to guarantee civil unrest, that's about the best way of doing it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wretchard has his usual brilliant post up at the Belmont Club, on the Orlando massacre.
If the Second Amendment didn't exist, it might have to be invented to meet the current situation.

The more incompetent the Obama administration becomes, the less convincing its demand for public disarmament will be. Conversely, the more competence the administration demonstrates, the more likely the public is to entrust its safety to it.

Historically, state failure drives civilian armament, not the other way around. Perhaps the clearest example of this trend is Lebanon, where the inability of the central government to protect the sectarian communities has led each to protect itself. While America is not Lebanon, the same principles hold true: competence inspires confidence, and there is precious little competence in the administration.
How many times has this happened now? Over and over, no sooner do we learn the name of the terrorist killer than we hear that authorities were "monitoring" him. Monitored him right up to the door of the abbatoir, it seems.

I don't know, maybe they think this is reassuring in some way. As if we feel better knowing that Watchful Government was hovering nearby, holding the hands of the maimed and dying in their last agony. I agree with Wretchard, that people will increasingly write off the police and rely on their own efforts to protect themselves. And eventually they'll get extremely angry when they find that the government is only efficient and effective when it's pushing THEM around, while terrorists inexplicably manage to do what they want without interference.

"Jump, I'll catch you" is credible only when the fireman's net is not surrounded by mashed bodies.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gardening starting again

May has finally turned beautifully warm, and I've been outside most days trying to get the garden planted. It's mostly done, but now we're waiting for stuff to start coming up.

I planted about 125 potatoes this year. Not as much as in some years, but one variety I got - Sangre - turned out to have very few eyes per potato. So I only planted one row of that one. I planted 2 rows each of Chaleur, All Red, German Butterball and Warba. Lee Valley tools no longer sells that biodegradable black plastic mulch, so I've had to order a big roll of it from a Quebec agriculture supply dealer. I can't do without that stuff; it heats the soil as well as keeping down weeds.

I tested my garden soil for the first time in many years, and was surprised to find that it had grown rather alkaline! I was sure for years that the soil naturally tended toward the acid, but I think that years of cultivation and adding compost has altered it a bit. Now I think that's why the raspberries haven't done well for several seasons. In alkaline soil, they have trouble extracting nutrients, so even though I'd sprinkle fertilizer on them, they couldn't absorb it. I'm going to overhaul the entire row of raspberries, digging down and working in peat moss as well as composted manure.

I discovered a garden place outside Smith's Falls called Gemells, and they sell bags of acid-enhanced garden soil. I'm going to buy a few bags of that to help out, too.

In addition to the potatoes, I've planted Swiss Chard, turnips, carrots, garlic, shallots, 8 tomatoes, 2 cucumbers and 2 butternut squash. We've never had much luck with the carrots, as tree roots keep invading the soil and making it hard for them to grow. Also, rabbits do get in and now that we've got a chainlink fence I've given up entirely any hope of keeping them out. But this is a red variety, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

There's not much to photograph yet, but Dean picked some Lily of the Valley by the river today, and I got a shot of the lilac in bloom. Today I'm going to make a rhubarb pie.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Trumpening, followed by The Sulkening

So Donald Trump is going to be the Republican Party nominee, if there are no dirty tricks with the rules at the convention in June (and I'll believe that once I see it).

Trump's triumph in Indiana on Tuesday has been followed by a tidal wave of bitter reproaches from #neverTrump fanatics.  Now, it's only been 2 days, so I wouldn't write them all off just yet.  I've been through bitter spells in politics where I've vowed never to vote again, and it usually tapers off with time.  Many people who now declare that they'd rather vote Hillary than Trump may find themselves changing once their traditional enemies, the Democrats, start getting sustained applause from the media for their anti-Republican attacks.  It's one thing to want to see an enemy punished, but it's not so satisfying if it comes at the expense of victory for *another* enemy, and that the one you've spent a lifetime wanting to defeat.  And then there were the comments, both there and a PJMedia:

But so far, the tone has been one of sulky pettishness.  Ace had it on full display on Tuesday night, from his opening post: To his comments in the thread

Well, a lot of the party has chosen a go it alone, we don't need you anyway strategy.
Good luck!

To his comments in the thread, and into the next day:

this could be sour grapes, and maybe I'll change my mind, but right now:  Those of you who swear you can win the election without people like me -- are invited to do so.  I'm done, I'm out.  Go with God and good luck. 

We told you he was unnacceptable -- stupid, paranoid, crazy, and narcisstic in the extreme. He's scary.  You think he's just jake. Fine. But he's YOUR BOY. This shit no longer has anything to do with the rest of us. 
i can't surrender as I'm a non-combatant in this war.  this is YOUR BOY. You help your boy cross that finish line, Son! 

And then there were the comments, both there and at PJMedia:

"I hope you keep telling yourself that. It will make it even funnier watching your meltdown in November after your orange messiah gets crushed in a 40-state landslide."
"The Trumpkins can reap what they sowed. "
"Trump groupies: yay our guy won and now everyone is going to rally behind him and his authoritarian greatness. Otherwise you are electing Hillary and ruining the Supreme Court........ Eff you all and enjoy your humiliation."

"Trumpsters, keep pushing our buttons, keep laughing and you'll soon see that many Republicans and conservatives will NOT vote for Dear Leader. November is coming and you are the only fools to blame for the impending defeat."
"Let's talk in october, when Mr. Cheetoface is down 35 points and you beg conservatives like us to support Trump. Let's see your reaction then. BTW, I'm not stabbing  your candidate in the back, I'm stabbing him in the face. You own him, you live with him."

"Oh my God, he's... he's... *down 35 points!*"
"Tell us, Ralphie, was it something WE did?"
"It was... TRUMP POISONING!"
"Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!!" (Wails of sorrow and regret) "How could we do it? I'll never forgive myself!"
"Well, I'll manage to get along... somehow."

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A cartoonist with a good ear


Monday, April 25, 2016

SCTV and Shakespeare

In honour of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Another waif adopted

Well, it happened again. Another hapless sewing machine managed to wangle its way into the house. I didn't mean this to happen, really, but it did.


I went to an auction near Carleton Place on Wednesday, because I saw by the pictures that there were 2 old treadle machines there. I mentioned in my post about the parlour cabinet that it was missing the spring to work the lift mechanism. I've been checking eBay, but the shipping cost of getting that part would almost amount to what I paid for the whole machine, cabinet and all! So my idea has been to keep my eyes open for a broken down old cabinet with a working spring, buy it for a song and then take the part I need and discard the rest. I figured I could get one of these machines, and that would do the trick.

One machine was very old, but with the traditional oak desk with elaborate open-work iron treadles. Those are often converted into tables, so I figured it would be the popular one. The other one was obviously newer: the treadle was also out in the open, but the iron legs were quite plain and straight, not very pretty at all. The machine was in better condition, but with very modest decals. I thought I'd probably end up having to settle for that one. It didn't bother me so much, because I wasn't intending to keep the machine (another model 15) anyway.

Well, to my surprise, the older machine came up first, and only one lady bid against me, and I ended up getting it! The price was $32.50 Cdn, just over $25 US. The other one got more interest, and went for $50 Cdn! (It was the same lady who got it.)

I talked to her afterwards: she has 8 sewing machines, including 3 treadles! I showed her how to unscrew the tabs that hold the machine in the case, and carry it off on its own. It's better, if you're moving machines, to take them out of the cabinet, because they're not properly supported when you lay the case down, and they can end up flopping around and getting damaged. I noticed her machine was much lighter than mine; must be constructed of aluminum, while mine is steel. It also had a sort of rough texture, rather than the usual smooth black surface; later I discovered that this is called the "Godzilla" finish. The serial number began with "JA", which meant it was built in St. John's, Nfld. I was guessing it might have been built during or just after the war, because of its odd finish. I was surprised that such a newer machine would get more interest, but it was in good condition and probably wouldn't need any work beyond fixing up the wooden cabinet. (It also had a box of attachments with it, but I already have those.)

Mine, on the other hand, was made in 1904. Don't be fooled by the first picture; I rubbed a little sewing machine oil on it along the top of one side to see if the decals would clean up, so it looks a little shiny. THIS is what the rest of it looks like:

Yes, it is rusty. But it still moves. The balance wheel, despite its appearance, turns well. There is some stiffness up around the needle bar, or it might be down in the shuttle area. I can't get the back shuttle plate off, so the problem might be there. I'm going to try to clean it up and see if I can get it looking nice again. There are many tutorials on YouTube, but I found a very useful guide at The Quilting Board, a forum for quilters and sewing machine enthusiasts. I've bought some PB Blaster, which I found at Canadian Tire, and now I've got to get some Evapo-Rust, which they carry at Lee Valley Tools.


The cabinet also needs to be refinished, and I'll use rust converter on the treadle stand once I've cleaned off all the loose grime and rust. This YouTube video gives a good tutorial on how to do it.

So now you see the problem. I can't just take the spring out of this cabinet, because now I want to keep this sewing machine too, and IT will also need the lift mechanism in its cabinet. I guess I'll have to keep searching. But I really must stop buying machines, unless I want to start reselling them.

UPDATE: Well, I did a little searching, and it looks like the Godzilla or "crinkle" finish the other machine had made it rather rare! The spindly decals were typical of that style. Perhaps that's why more people were bidding on it, though I don't think the lady who bought it knew that. The JA serial number dates it from 1924-1936, a bit older than I thought. Just as well it went to someone else, because I didn't care for it, rare or not, and only would have wanted the cabinet part.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Doesn't rise to the lev... zzzzzzz"

From Navy Times:
Russian pilots rattled nerves aboard the destroyer Donald Cook, buzzing within yards of the ship in the Baltic Sea. Provocative, sure. But they weren't a credible threat.

So concludes a retired Navy commanding officer, who reviewed photos and videos from the run-ins on Monday and Tuesday, when unarmed Sukhoi Su-24 fighters flew within 1,000 feet of the ship — once coming as close as 30 feet in what U.S. officials called "simulated attacks." On Monday, a low-flying Russian Ka-27 Helix helicopter also appeared to take photos of the ship.

This was definitely provocative, but it doesn't amount to a threat, said the retired frigate and cruiser CO.

"Well, we’re not at war with Russia," Capt. Rick Hoffman said. "It would be one thing to be operating and have a threatening attack profile from someone who might not recognize me — that’s not the case here."




(Hat tip: Belmont Club)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I've been linked!

To the wonderful new blog, Hot Gas, which is also now on my blogroll. If you go there and check, you'll see I'm on *their* blogroll, right near the top! So now I have to pick up the pace of blogging, so as not to waste my new high-profile status.

Hot Gas started when Hot Air instituted wide-sweeping changes, which result in a mass exodus of a large percentage of their most fervent posters. Constantine (love the name, and I hope he starts posting about Byzantine history, because that will be the way to get Dean interested) started up Hot Gas as a place for the orphaned posters to reform.

I never went to Hot Air in the past; the first I heard of this new site was when subotaibahadur of Belmont Club posted there, and his posting showed up on my Disqus feed. I figured if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me, so I went over there and have been there ever since. This coincided with Ace of Spades turning ferociously anti-Trump, so the removal of his bookmark from this little page coincided with the arrival of the other.

HG is very pro-Trump. Although I'm Canadian, and have no vote to bestow, I find myself most at home among the Trump supporters, and found the relentless mocking and denigration of them elsewhere to be very off-putting. I don't post that much myself regarding Trump, because I'll always be an outsider when it comes to American politics. But the trends in the U.S. are appearing everywhere, and the bigger issue, of who is to rule and what does it mean to be a citizen, are of interest to everyone, even us up here in the Great White North.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Adventures in translation

I've started translating and making English subtitles for a new project: the 1973 French TV adaptation of Flaubert's "Education Sentimentale".

This is the only clip of it I've found so far on YouTube. I was interested in it because it has a Georges Delerue score. I actually like this novel better than "Madame Bovary". I like the contrast between the inadequate characters and the historical backdrop against which they're ineffectually moving. This period of French and European history, the revolution(s) of 1848, is not one that I know much about. We always suppose that in a revolution, EVERYONE is fully involved with the great issues, but in this novel the main characters sort of get momentarily involved, then just drift off to some personal matter, only to brush up against the big historical events a little later. It's almost funny the way their rather shallow lives can go on uninterrupted in large part.

I expect Flaubert must have known from personal experience how big events can sort of jog along with commonplace things like eating, buying clothes, going to the theater, etc. I read an English translation of the novel before starting the subtitles. I have to say, the TV series actually brings out the humor in the novel quite well. There's a part in Frederick's short, dumb political career where he goes to address one of the radical clubs in Paris. The whole scene dissolves into a ludicrous parade of nuts yelling about religion, Marxism, art, money and finishing up with a long address in Portuguese that nobody can understand.

Anyway, just by chance Dean drew my attention to a particularly bad example of Google translate.

Justin Trudeau made his grand entrance on the international stage last week when he visited the White House. As usual, he had to give part of his address in French. For some reason, ABC News wasn't prepared for this, and they resorted to some awful robo-translator to subtitle his speech.

Buzzfeed dissected the speech, and the translation, in hilarious detail:



"President Obama I’d love the log trucks”

Please give them to him, Obama.


I'm not surprised Obama's turning grey in this picture.

Big national broadcaster like ABC: hire a translator. He won't cost much, and he'll do a professional job.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A work of art

I found this sewing machine at a thrift shop last year, and bought it just because it's so beautiful. The light comes on when it's plugged in, and it seems quite functional, but I haven't tried sewing on it - I just like to look at it.



The name on it is Arrow, model 620. As far as I've been able to discover, this is a post-war Japanese knockoff of a Singer machine. (Although the serial number on mine has a letter K before it, not J as was usual for Japanese-built machines, so I could be wrong about where it was built.) After the war, the Americans helped the Japanese switch over to peacetime manufacturing, and one of the things they started making was sewing machines.

These aren't really collectable as far as I know, but they have a good reputation. They're said to be solidly built workhorses, and when they were made they made a dent in Singer's market because they were a lot cheaper than the original Singers.

The names they went under vary. I've seen a picture of an identical machine (in PINK!) sold under the name Bel-Air. I think Arrow was the name used in Canada, Bel-Air was the USA, and there were probably others. I really like the looks of them - they were making them in cheerful colours, and they remind me of 1950s cars. I once saw a stunning royal blue one that I'm still kicking myself for not buying. (Though honestly, how many sewing machines should a person have?)

This one was $45 I think, with the cabinet, although that's pretty worn and needs to be stripped and refinished.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

My favourite sewing machine

I've just realized that I acquired this machine almost 2 years ago, not just last year as I'd thought.

Anyway, I put a post on Facebook about it at the time, but now I figure I might as well include it here, since I've already put up some stuff on the treadle machine.

This is my favourite, bestest machine, partly because it's so good, and partly because of how I got it. I went to an auction out in Osnabruck Center in June 2014. It wasn't an auction held at a farm, which is what I enjoy most, but it was at an auction hall. I went there because there was a nice Victorian rocking chair that looked very similar to one we'd had in my mother's house. I got the chair, but I stayed to the end of the auction just for the fun of it.

By the end of a country auction, usually the best stuff has already sold, and much of the crowd has left, but you do find odds and ends that can be useful. This little sewing machine cabinet came up, and nobody wanted to bid on it. I'd just peeked under the lid to see there was a Singer machine there, but nothing more. As it was clear that no one wanted this machine, I felt pity for it, knowing that it would probably end up thrown into a mass lot of junk at the end and would probably end up going to the scrap metal dealers, so I bid $1.00 and got it on the spot.

I stuffed it into the van with the rocking chair and a few other things I'd picked up and headed home. The next day I pulled it out and took a closer look at it. Althought the cabinet was scratched on top and the wood had been sunned, it was in pretty good shape. The machine, too, looked nice, with no broken or missing parts. It had a serial number and model number: 201K.
When I went online to see what I could find out about it, I was stunned to read that the 201 was Singer's absolutely top-of-the-line home sewing machine from the time it was introduced, in 1928, until it was discontinued in 1963. (The "K" in the model number means that it was built in Kilbowie, Scotland.) This machine came close to industrial quality, and when it first came out it cost the equivalent of a car today! Singer pioneered the monthly payment system for this machine, so people could buy it and earn money doing home tailoring while paying it off.

My machine is a later model, from about 1956, I think. They'd modernized the design somewhat in the late 1950s, and introduced the beige colour, in addition to the original black. Also, it was no longer made entirely of iron, it had some aluminum in it, but it's still very heavy.

It was in great shape, I plugged it in and the motor just roared. Since I'd gotten it for so little, I decided to take it to the Sewing Machine Hospital to get it professionally cleaned and tuned up. So now it runs like a champion, and I've sewn a good number of garments on it already. It only does straight stitch, and I have another machine to do zigzag if I need it, but honestly, I just prefer using this one for everything, it's so enjoyable to operate.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

Sewing machine project

I'm still gloating over my great treadle sewing machine, but yesterday I started to realize just how very DIRTY it actually is. I took the faceplate off the front, and ewwww... Brownish-black, greasy, and FURRY with dust and lint! It was kept oiled, but I don't think it was cleaned very often, if ever.


I got out my can of Nev-R-Dull metal cleaner: it's not a cream, it's a thick roll of chemical-soaked cotton. You pull off bits of it to clean the grime off metal. Canadian Tire has it in the automotive section. Through a lot of rubbing, I managed to get a lot off the discoloration off the plate. It's now nice and shiny. But there's still the interior of the machine to deal with.

I've ordered a book from Amazon.ca on cleaning and fixing old sewing machines. We're still about 2 months away from being able to do anything in the garden, so this will keep me busy for the interval.

I did find one thing was damaged - not with the sewing machine, but with the cabinet. I couldn't figure out why the little side plate next to the machine wouldn't stay up when the machine was lifted up out of the case. I finally saw that there was a strong spring right at the back that didn't appear to be connected to anything. The end of that spring has broken off; it's supposed to stretch out like a finger underneath the side plate. When the machine is lowered down into the case, the weight of the machine holds it down. When the machine is lifted up, the spring holds the plate up in position. All I have to do is replace the spring.

I've looked on eBay, but so far all I see are spring/plate units for sale which, with the shipping, would cost almost as much as the whole cabinet and machine cost me at the auction! No way am I going to pay that much for a spring. If necessary, I'll just leave the plate hanging down into the cabinet; it's not essential for the operation of the machine, it just serves as a sort of dust protector and (I think) keeps the leather belt from slipping off the machine and falling down into the case when the machine is lowered. Putting the belt back on is not much trouble.

What I think I'll do, though, is keep prowling through thrift shops and this summer go to more auctions, and see if I can find a cast-off cabinet with that spring mechanism intact. I could probably buy one for $10 or less, take the spring and throw the rest of it away. It's by far the most economical plan.

Meanwhile, I don't have a very good picture of the cleaned-up front plate, because it reflected the flash, but here's what it looks like after a simple attempt to take off the surface grime. Once I get my book, I'll go at it more seriously.

Oh, and one nice thing I discovered: all the attachments that came with my 201K sewing machine (the one I got for ONE DOLLAR CANADIAN) at an auction last year!) also fit the older model 15! So now I have additional feet, besides the one original one it came with.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Interesting prediction of Trump victory

I thought this was interesting when I read it, and I just want to post it here so I can find it later on in the election cycle.

Professor Helmut Norpoth, at Stony Brook University, claims to have developed a statistical model for correctly forecasting American presidential elections. His method apparently correctly forecast the elections from 1996 onward, and when data for past elections was plugged into it, it "chose" the actual winner of every election since 1912, with the exception of 1960. (Interesting exception!)

Norpoth began the presentation with an introduction of the potential matchups in the general election, including a hypothetical Sanders vs. Trump general election.

“When I started out with this kind of display a few months ago, I thought it was sort of a joke.” Norpoth said referring to Trump and Sanders, as many alumni in the audience laughed. “Well, I’ll tell you right now, it ain’t a joke anymore.”

As the presentation continued, laughter turned to silence as Norpoth forecasted a 61 percent chance of a Republican win in the general election....

Norpoth then added data from the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries to narrow down the forecast to specific candidates. As he brought up the first slide with matchup results, the silence was broken by muttering from the audience.

“Trump beats Hillary 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent [of the popular vote]. This is almost too much to believe.” Norpoth said, with a few members of the audience laughing nervously. “The probability of that [outcome] is almost complete certainty, 97 percent. It’s almost ‘Take it to the bank.’ ”

The primary model predicts a Trump victory with such certainty due to Trump’s relatively high success in the Republican primaries, Norpoth said. Clinton, in comparison, is in an essential tie with Sanders in the Democratic primaries. As a result, Sanders would also lose to Trump in a similar landslide if Sanders were to be the Democratic nominee, Norpoth said.
It'll be interesting to see if his model holds up as the election approaches. It seems to me very risky to be coming out with a prediction like this so early, which leads me to think that he must be looking at the likelihood of a blowout for Trump. Just as ridings can be "called" for a candidate with only 5% of returns counted if the margin of victory is big enough, his model must be showing such overwhelming results, he isn't even bothering to wait for Super Tuesday. It could be a gimmick, of course, just to get attention. But if I had a record of near 100% accuracy, I'd think twice before throwing it away just to gain some short term notoriety.