Libertarian, history buff, wine fan, blogger.
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My Views on BLM

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I was at a function the other day when I was challenged to take a position on the stupid 'black lives matter vs. all lives matter' false dichotomy.    I was fortunate to be in a group that actually let me answer with more nuance.  Here is essentially what I said:

  1. There is a real problem with police accountability and police violence in this country, one I have been writing about since long before the BLM movement was even created.
  2. The harm of these police accountability issues falls disproportionately, but not solely, on blacks and other minority ethnic groups
  3. For any number of reasons, fixing racism is not the immediate answer.  Most obviously, because racism is super-hard to eradicator and has persisted (though improved, IMO) despite a lot of attention over many decades.   It is hard to point to any time and place in human history when some folks have not been seduced by in-group-out-group thinking
  4. There are real, identifiable steps that can actually increase police accountability and transparency and reduce the types of police violence incidents BLM was formed to oppose.  Early on, BLM actually identified a pretty good list.
  5. BLM did a fabulous job of raising awareness and putting these issues near the center of political discussion.
  6. Having done so, BLM now has gone completely off the rails.  It appears to be entirely focused on virtue-signalling and disruption and support of progressive issues completely tangential to its initial focus.  It has no coherent action plan.  Colin Kapernick torpedoed his own football career to bring attention to BLM, but once he did so and had microphones thrust in his face from every direction, neither he nor any of his supporters had anything specific to advocate for, other than outrage and telegraphing their victim status.
  7. Progress can be made on these issues, but what it will take is a hard city by city slog to change the rules that govern police discipline and transparency.   As I wrote before, BLM "could learn a lot from Conservative and libertarian groups like ALEC, that focus on creating model legislation and local success stories that can be copied in other places."
  8. Republicans often oppose police accountability steps -- they don't just support the police, they fetishize them.  But the cities that most cry out for new accountability rules -- New York, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, Los Angeles -- are have Democratic super-majorities and governments whose officials almost to a one have come out publicly in support of BLM.  So why no progress?  One big barrier is the Democratic Party's unwavering support for public employee unions, and it is police unions that are the biggest barrier to implementing the steps BLM should be demanding.  This is another side of this issue discussed earlier in the week.
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nrusson
134 days ago
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Ontario, Canada
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Diets and Models

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There is a new diet out there projected to lead to sustainable weight loss.

Your intrepid analyst here has developed a model that shows that eating half a litre of ice cream and half a pack of Tim-Tams every night will lead to solid and consistent weight loss.

Unlike other models quoted recently (inc Finkel, Gonski), the Spartacus model will disclose, up front, the key assumptions. The key assumptions being that for the purposes of the model, it is assumed that the caloric value of ice cream and Tim Tams in NIL and it is further assumed that ice cream and Tim Tams enhance human fat burning.

The model has been peer reviewed. Spartacus has some friends and peers (Crixus, Gannicus, Castus and Oenomaus) who have reviewed the model.  Their qualifications are that they are known to Spartacus and like ice cream and Tim Tams.  Fortunately these peers have accepted the underlying assumptions and have agreed with the models conclusions.

Spartacus’ next stop is to try to set up an ice cream and Tim Tam factory (hopefully Arnotts will give the licence). Given the clear public policy benefits of everyone eating ice cream and Tim Tams, the model clearly shows it, the Government must underwrite the factory.  The savings to the health budget will clearly be phenomenal.

In addition to public funding for the establishment of the Spartacus ice cream and Tim Tam factory, a case will be made for the CReS – the Caloric Reduction Scheme, whereby every kilo of ice cream and Tim Tams will produce a CReS certificate which then must be purchased by fresh produce producers under threat of imprisonment.

With the model on our side, hopefully, the government will mandate a 42% caloric reduction target ensuring that Australian diet include a minimum proportion of ice cream and Tim Tams.

You all know it makes sense. The modelling proves it.

There used to be lies, damned lies and statistics. There are now lies, damned lies, statistics and models.

Good thing Australian media and political class read carefully the inputs and outputs of the models they use to justify the policies foisted upon us.

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nrusson
180 days ago
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This can clearly be adapted to the national preferences of other nations, too. We should get right on this as soon as possible.
Ontario, Canada
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Today in History: Pax No More

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So, people tend to confuse the Pax Romana with the period of history during which the Roman Empire existed, but that's not really how it worked.

The late days of the Republic and the period of civil wars that ended with Octavian as Augustus were anything but peaceful. The salad days stretched across most of the first two centuries AD, when transfers of power were mostly peaceful and when they weren't, they were at least brief and disrupted the life of the ordinary people of the empire very little. What wars there were happened out on the frontiers and Rome was generally victorious. The rule of law more or less functioned properly, and the aqueducts ran on time.

Omens of future problems came with the reign of emperor Joaquin Phoenix who (after going crazy and arranging for the murders of a bunch of senators) was not actually stabbed in the Coliseum by Russel Crowe, but rather was strangled in the tub by his wrestling coach and personal trainer.

There was a brief period of semi-stability under the increasingly silly and neurotic Severan Dynasty before the wheels came off in the Year of the Six Emperors, which kicked off the Crisis of the Third Century, a period when two centuries' worth of chickens came home to roost in Rome.

The crisis began when Maximinus Thrax, a "Barracks Emperor" who completely lived up to his anime villain name, got folks fed up. Some younger, well-to-do Romans in North Africa stabbed the local tax collector to death and talked the provincial governor into declaring himself emperor. Since the dude was an octogenarian, he nominated his son as his co-augustus.

Unfortunately the governor of the next province over not only remained loyal, but was a better general. The rebel army got crushed in the field at Carthage, killing the son (Gordian II), and on hearing the news, the dad pulled an Aaron Hernandez to avoid capture and execution.

On this date in 238AD, the senate then appointed a couple of elderly senators, Pupienus and Balbinus, with good military histories and prominent committee memberships (most importantly, both were ranking members of the What the Hell Do We Do About Emperor Maximinus Thrax Committee) as co-emperors.

This proved about as popular with the general populace of Rome as would the Senate suddenly appointing John McCain and Lindsey Graham as co-presidents to unseat Trump. The PR problem became apparent when the new co-emperors couldn't appear in public without people throwing stuff at them, and so the senate named the Justin Bieber-looking 13-year-old grandson of the recently-hanged Gordian I as Gordian III.

Anybody with a room temperature IQ could see that Balbinus and Pupienus were still in charge and the barely-pubescent Gordian was a figurehead, but the populace of Rome was mollified by this move, which doesn't speak much for their collective smarts.

Meanwhile, Maximinus Thrax was making his way from his home base in the Balkans toward Rome. He arrived at the city of Aquilea but, rather than welcoming him and resupplying his troops, the city shut its gates and forced a siege. With the senatorial army led by Pupienus closing in from Rome and supplies growing short, Maximinus Thrax wound up getting shanked by his own troops, along with all his family and staff.

With the guy with the anime villain name dead, McCain and Graham naturally started quarreling and plotting against each other. Before it could come to open war, the Praetorian guard killed them both and left Justin Bieber lookalike Gordian III sole emperor at the end of the year.
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nrusson
226 days ago
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A true annus horribilis for the Roman Empire, amusingly recounted by Tam Slick.
Ontario, Canada
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Turning The Tables

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We’re all familiar with those tiresome magazine or newspaper articles which tell you “How To Ace That Sweet Job Interview” or suchlike nonsense. I’ve sat on both sides of the desk many times, and I am still amazed not just at the stupidity of interviewees, but also at the still-greater idiocy of the interviewers — and I mean the “screening” interviewers such as Human Resources (or as we used to call it, Personnel, a more honest term in that it involved persons as opposed to resources). Mostly, interviews with the people who are going to be your future boss are hundreds of times more productive because the manager has a better idea of what he needs from a subordinate, than does some drone with an English degree who can barely understand the corporate mission statement, let alone the specific needs of an engineering or marketing department.

So, with all the usual caveats — following my advice is something you need to do with the greatest suspicion and/or trepidation — allow me to present Kim’s Ultimate Answers To Interviewers’ Dumb Questions.

“What skills will you bring to the company?”
– You mean, other than what’s on my resumé?

“Can you explain some of the gaps in your resumé?”
– I don’t consider them to be gaps. During one of those “gaps”, as you call them, I learned to speak a foreign language. During another “gap”, I learned basic HTML. I used those opportunities to improve my marketplace value.

“Are you a punctual person?”
– For me, five minutes early is on time. But the converse of that is that unless it’s a client, I don’t tolerate unpunctuality in other people.

“Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.”
– You need to define what you consider “difficult” first. What some people might consider difficult, I might consider unremarkable or inconsequential. (Then examples: I once turned a competitor’s best customer into one of our best customers. I turned our cost-center department into a profit center.) Avoid any mention of how you dealt with office politics — those discussion are poison because HR, having no actual marketable skills themselves, will be well versed in office politics.

“What would you consider your biggest strength as an employee?”
– Managing expectations. Generally, I try to under-promise and over-deliver, and always under budget or ahead of the deadline.

“What would you consider your biggest weakness?”
– You mean work-related weaknesses? Can’t think of any, off-hand, other than perhaps a dislike of unproductive meetings. I get very impatient when my work time is wasted.

(Follow-up snarky question:) “So how would you classify this meeting?”
– This is a productive meeting. From my responses, you’re trying to decide whether you want to employ me; and from the corporate culture you’re showing me, I’m trying to decide whether I’d want to work here.

“Are you prepared to work weekends and holidays?”
– Of course I am. By the way, what’s the usual compensation for doing that: longer vacations, flexible hours, or overtime pay? I don’t mind any of those as exchanges for giving up my personal time. I’m not a clock-watcher by any means, but I do value my spare time. (Unless you’re applying for a management position, this is a perfectly acceptable response, by the way.)

“Do you get along with people?”
– Most people.

(Follow-up question:) “What kind of people don’t you get along with?”
– People who confuse input with output. Also, people who don’t understand the Iron Triangle (cost, time and scope). [If you have to explain the difference between input and output to the interviewer, you may wish to reconsider your job application.]

“What do you know about our company?”
– Other than what’s on your corporate website? Not much. I do know quite a bit about your competitors, though, because I did some homework on them so I could start work as productively as possible.

(Follow-up question #1:) “What do you know about our competitors?”
– I really wouldn’t feel comfortable divulging that except to my future boss, as his subordinate.
(Follow-up question #2:) “Have you been in contact with any of our competitors?”
– Not yet. I wanted to see how things went with your company

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” (Mostly, this question has disappeared from most interviews, because today’s would-be employees have little idea where they’ll be in five days, let alone years. Still:)
– It really depends on how my job changes, or what happens to the company over that period of time. With the rate of change today, what with companies starting up and failing, or being taken over by competitors, I think that five years is too long a period in which to make strategic career decisions at this point.

“Will you take a drug test?”
– The minute you can prove to me that the CEO and all the other senior executives have taken the same drug test. Then, sure.
[HR will say that they can’t show you that for privacy issues, but repeat that you don’t want to see the results, just proof that the test was taken. When they say, “It’s corporate policy; everyone has to take the test,” insist on proof. If they say, “you have to take my word that everyone has taken the test”, then your response should be that they should have no problem about taking your word that you don’t do drugs. By the way, if senior executives don’t have to take the test, then it’s not corporate policy. If the drug test policy only applies to lower echelons, ask how they’ve avoided being sued so far.]

“Do you have any bad work habits?” (I swear, I was once asked this question, a variation of “What are your weaknesses?” which has now been excoriated so often that it’s no longer asked.)
– I don’t know what constitutes a “bad habit” in your opinion. Could you give me a few examples? (Then answer those, and only those, with responses like: “I’d never do that” or “I’ve never done that” or “People do that?”)

“Do you have any questions for me?”
– Only about the salary (hourly rate), which seems a little modest for the skills and experience you’re asking of an employee at this level. But I’d prefer to discuss that topic with my future boss here, rather than at so early a stage in the process. (Unsaid: I don’t want to hear all that bullshit about salary grades from you, but from the guy who has actual budget authority.)

I should probably point out that if you actually use the above examples in an interview, your chances of getting the job will drop faster than a Kardashian’s panties. But at least you’ll have had some fun along the way. I should also point out that I have used some of these, or at least variations thereof, on my own behalf. Quite often, amazingly, I made it past HR to the boss’s interview because it appeared that the HR drone saw quite clearly that they were out of their depth, and like all good bureaucrats, kicked the problem over to someone else.

Use with caution.

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nrusson
248 days ago
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If an interview is going badly, here are some ways to enjoy the trainwreck.
Ontario, Canada
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Dazzling colour photographs of 1950s and 60s Toronto at night

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Toronto of the 1960s was a city full of neon, so even as there were less people and things to do, main streets like Yonge and Bloor were hubs of energy dotted with ostentatious signs that set the streetscape ablaze. It was entirely messy and just a little sleazy

Depending on how you looked at it, it was also beautiful. Streetcar lights pierced the night, movie theatre marquees could be found everywhere, and every sign was different from the next. It was like a completely different city than the one we know today.

Here's what Toronto looked like at night in the 1950s and 60s.

toronto 1950s

The corner of Yonge and Gerrard in the 1950s. Check out the marquee on the Savoy (far left).

toronto 1960sThe sparse Toronto skyline at the outset of the 1960s, prior to the rise of the TD Centre. The tallest building here is Canadian Bank of Commerce (now Commerce Court North).

toronto 1960s

Looking east on Bloor from Bathurst. The Midtown is now the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, though most of us still call it the Bloor.

toronto 1960s

Recognize the intersection? This is Yonge and Bloor before the birth of the Bloor-Danforth Line, when passengers would board east/west routes via these streetcar platforms.

toronto 1960s

Here we're looking south of Yonge St. from College with the Eaton's building on the right.

toronto 1960s

A view of the Wychwood Carhouse when it was still used to house streetcars.

toronto 1960s

Here we're looking east across Bloor from Bedford. Among the most remarkable things is the neon-adorned Swiss Chalet, the first location in the chain.

toronto 1960s

A TTC streetcar sweeper clears the road on Coxwell near Queen St.

toronto 1950s

Looking south on brightly lit Yonge St. from Gould. The Edison Hotel still had nightly entertainment and the Le Coq d'Or Tavern was a live music hot spot.

toronto 1960s

This is a reverse angle, now looking north from Dundas to Gould St. On the right is the Biltmore Theatre.

toronto 1960s

Aeroquay One was considered one of the nicest airport terminals in the world when it opened in 1964.

toronto 1960s

New City Hall looking just that in 1965.

toronto 1960s

Henry's Moore's The Archer when it was shiny, new, and patina-free.

toronto 1960s

The towering Odeon Theatre sign on Carlton near Yonge. 

toronto 1960s

Looking north up University across Richmond St. and beyond. 

toronto 1960s

The Glendale Theatre on Avenue Rd. north of Lawrence in 1968.

toronto 1960s

Friar's Tavern just south of Yonge and Dundas (pre-Hard Rock Cafe).

toronto 1960s

This anonymous intersection is actually Bloor and Dundas back in the 1960s.

toronto 1960s

The Sutton Place Hotel was the lap of luxury when it opened in 1967.

toronto 1960s

A streetcar entering the Queensway from Queen/King/Roncesvalles. Love that CIBC sign.

toronto 1960s

The Roncesvalles Carhouse looking perfectly noir-esque.

The Regency Towers Hotel on Avenue Rd. (now a crappy Howard Johnson).

toronto 1960s

Looking west on Queen St. from Bay with Nathan Phillips Square decorated for the holidays.

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nrusson
255 days ago
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Toronto a few years before my family came to Canada. Some lovely photos here.
Ontario, Canada
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An Open Letter To Falcons Fans

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Not a lot of fanbases could mentally process what happened to the Falcons and come out sane on the other end. Vikings fans have been doing it since the 1960's. And we're here to help

Dear Falcons Fans,

Hi. I'm kind of at a loss for words for you guys, but I want you guys to know that you're not alone. As Vikings fans, we've been there. Yes, every year one team loses the Super Bowl, and it sucks, but rarely is a loss this brutal, a collapse this complete; a disbelief this consuming that leaves you in a stupor. And right now it's a feeling you don't think you'll ever get over. You've probably even considered cheering for another team after last night.

that's just reactionary and stupid. You're a Falcons fan, and you don't change fandom because of one game. Even if that game was last night.

They say time heals all wounds. 'They' are wrong. Some things you will not ever get over, and this will be one of those things. And that's okay. But time does put distance between what happened yesterday, and as the years pass, time also adds perspective, and will give you an appreciation of what was one hell of a 2016 season.

Even though there's no way you believe that right now. I understand. I am a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, and processing sports grief is what we do. If I may have just a couple minutes of your time, I think we can help.

Right now you're feeling a mix of grief, anger, and disbelief, and it's all justifiable. Virtually no one blows a 25 point lead late in the third quarter, and never on football's biggest stage. Seriously, how rare was this feat?

That's just brutal. And in the Super Bowl. Reading that, you're pissed off all over again, and you think back to one or two plays that, if they go the other way, you win the Super Bowl. After Julio Jones' eleventy third ridiculous catch, all you had to do was run the ball three times, kick a FG, and it's over.

But that didn't happen. And the Falcons lost. And it might have been the worst loss in NFL history, certainly in Falcons history. I'm going to be brutally honest with you, and you might not want to hear this, but this game will gnaw at you for the rest of your life, and you'll never truly get over it. Most games, yeah, eventually you move on and shrug your shoulders over.

But there are moments that you will never, ever truly put aside, and it doesn't matter how many championships or big games your team eventually wins.

There are two games in my Vikings fandom I will never, ever get over. One was Drew Pearson's infamous push off on Nate Wright in the 1975 playoff game against Dallas in a play that's become immortalized as the 'Hail Mary'.

The second? The 1998 NFC Championship game, against your very own Atlanta Falcons. If Gary Anderson makes that field goal, the Vikings win, and they go to the Super Bowl. But if Robert Smith doesn't run out of bounds on a sweep a couple plays earlier, there's not enough time on the clock, either. At least I don't think so. Also, Robert Griffith dropped a pick in the end zone but THIS IS NOT ABOUT THAT GAME AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH...

See what I mean?

Even championships don't truly erase the hurt and the pain. as an Ohio State fan, they've won two national championships in my lifetime that I remember, but the disembowelment at the hands of Florida in 2007 is a game I will never get over.

Ever. So don't think that one day a Super Bowl win will wipe this all away, because it won't.

So not kicking the field goal, the Edelman catch, and one or two other plays you'll chew on for the rest of your life, you'll play them over and over in your head, you'll get pissed off, shake your head, and silently curse the Football Gods. And heck, even 20 years from now, a highlight from this game might come on, and you'll turn it off. I still haven't re-watched a play of the '98 or '09 NFC Title games, and I can tell--instantly--when the Hail Mary play will be shown, and I turn the channel.

The pain still lingers.

So just accept this is going to be something you carry with you for the rest of your sports life, and for many of you, you'll never truly let it go. This bad memory will always be there, and it will be a profound loss, probably the biggest sports disappointment you'll ever experience.

But time will also bring perspective. And while you may not be able to bring yourself to ever re-watch the Super Bowl, even though there were some memorable highlights for the Falcons (OH HAI JULIO), at some point the hurt will ebb, and you'll be able to look at this 2016 season, and say to yourself 'damn, THAT was a hell of a football team.'

Because the 2016 Falcons were a hell of a team. You had an MVP in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, a swarming defense, and for two games and 40 minutes in the Super Bowl, you guys were a buzzsaw. You curbstomped the Seahawks and Packers, and had the Greatest Quarterback in NFL History thoroughly confused and on the ropes.

And yeah, then you didn't. Right, I get it. GODDAMN IT SHANAHAN WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST RUN THE BALL AND GET OUT OF THERE WITH A FIELD GOAL...I know you just screamed that, internally or externally.

Still, in 10, 15, or 20 years from now, the Falcons will be playing the Packers or Seahawks on some random Sunday afternoon, and they'll have a reunion for this team on the field. And you know what?

It'll be okay.

It doesn't seem like it, but it will. They'll show highlights of that Seahawks or Packers playoff game on the virtual reality jumbotron that all stadiums will have by then, and then Dan Quinn will be introduced and will get a warm ovation. Then Julio Jones will trot out, as will Matt Ryan, Dwight Freeney, and a bunch of other guys on this team you love cheering for, and the crescendo will grow into a roar.

And you'll think 'wow, looks like Julio could still catch 80 balls in this league'.

The applause will be loud, sustained, and you'll find yourself back in January of 2017, before That Thing That No One Mentions happened (because you have to give it a nickname), and the hair will stand up on the back of your neck, you'll get goosebumps, and you'll turn to the fan next to you and say...

'Man, that was a HELL of a team.'

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nrusson
313 days ago
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My sympathies to Atlanta fans, better expressed by Ted Glover.
Ontario, Canada
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