Margaret’s petard (or, we’re their them)

The Globe‘s Margaret Wente is an effective opinion writer, in that she can get you riled about something without actually adding any valuable comment. Take yesterday’s piece “Yes, Virginia, there is a polar bear” (paywalled, but helpfully parroted by her friends) as a shining example.

In it she makes the following points:

  1. Experts predict (nameless, faceless, experts, of course. She might as well have written Them for true shock effect) that climate change will harm polar bears
  2. Her expert on prediction (J. Scott Armstrong, Professor of Marketing [?!] at Wharton – no doubt to her cuddlier than Knut and also firmly one of Us) says that experts are really bad at predicting things where models are complex and inputs have uncertainty.
  3. That Prof Armstrong has come up with the sew wittily-named Seer-Sucker Theory: “No matter how much evidence there is that seers do not exist, seers will find suckers.”

So, Margaret: advocating medieval ignorance, superstition and misery because your “[a]bundant research [uncited, of course; can’t have the taint of intellectual rigour here] shows that experts … are no better than non-experts at making accurate predictions”? More likely, you’ve elevated Prof Armstrong to be your seer. By his argument, then, you are your own sucker.

Instead, consider Advices & Queries 17: “… Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

a narrow escape

I narrowly avoided buying an old Speed Graphic camera on eBay today. I regretted bidding almost immediately; film is a pain, and I’m glad I didn’t win. It would have been a nice ornament, but nothing more useful.

scrummy scran from the HAL Burgers man

I really like HAL Burgers (244 Adelaide). Good burgers, clever decor and decent beer. Not the cheapest burger I’ve ever had, but one of the better ones.

Update, August 2007: oh no, it’s closed! Notice of Distress on doorway dating back to July, so again I’m the last to know.

penticentenary (if that’s the right word)

I’ve been driving for 20 years. Seems a long time since I took that Mini Metro (which stank of Insignia aftershave – the instructor used it to clean the glass) from the BSM depot in
Pollokshields and puttered around the south side.

No speeding tickets, no parking tickets, and only one insurance claim. The insurers must be making a fortune from me.

happy solstice

And we didn’t even need to sacrifice anything to bring the sun back. But don’t forget the old Scottish saw: “As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens.”

Frosty’s Drano (or the snowmen’s suicide pact)

Catherine pointed out that the current Tim Hortons “Happy Holidays” campaign depicts an ill-advised, possibly fatal, beverage choice for snowmen:

tim hortons suicidal snowmen

To me, it’s clearly a suicide pact. They don’t want to see another summer. They’re going to a better place where it’s always ten below.

nostalgia for something that never existed

The Verbatim FlashDisc seems to be a solution without a problem to solve.

verbatim flashdisc

It’s a cheap ($4) but very tiny (16MB) USB memory key in the vague form of some kind of magnetic media. There are problems:

  • $0.25/MB may seem cheap, but it would mean that a 1GB key at this price was $256
  • It neatly blocks most of the USB ports on a machine
  • Just what kind of media is it supposed to be? It looks closest to an old spool of mag-tape, but folks buying this wouldn’t remember that.

the great lost opportunity

I’ve always thought that Adobe missed a great opportunity when they didn’t make their basic PDF writer freely available for Windows. Other OSs now have transparent print-to-PDF options. If you’re lucky, a corporate PC might have MS Office Document Image Writer installed, but a 300dpi monochrome TIFF can’t compare to a PDF.

Still, one can always install PDFCreator (if you have admin rights to the PC, of course). It’s a shame they decide to bundle a marginally dodgy toolbar/spyware package with it, but you don’t get that if you use the MSI installer package.

rip the carpet up off the floor

It’s moving day. We’re moving the office from North York to downtown. Very downtown, in fact; 200 University, almost my old Oanda stamping ground.

In celebration of leaving Vic Park & Sheppard, I guess I really must have one last burger from Johnny’s…

all the stars came crashing down

Saw the Decemberists at the awful barn that is the Kool Haus last night. The place was fairly busy, but not full. A scalper offered me a derisory price for a spare ticket, so I don’t think they sold out.
They were pretty good; great in parts, kind of tired and meh in others. Naughty Chris Funk lit up on stage; that’ll mean a fine for the venue. That’ll teach him not to play banjo on stage.
Sensitive wee Scottish folkie Alasdair Roberts supported. He was good enough for me to buy the CD.

house concert!

We went to a house concert last night to hear Chris Coole & Erynn Marshall play some Kentucky duets. Erynn’s back from BC to record with Chris; today’s a long day in the studio.

Great music, nice venue, excellent evening. Maybe we’ll eventually get enough money to buy Chris a new banjo head; his current one looks stricken with some dread skin disease …

tired

I’m hanging out near Warden and Danforth while I get snow tyres (I still can’t kick that spelling) fitted. It irks me that I could buy a nice fixie for the cost of these wheels, but that’s owning a car for you.

dirty harry

Went to Harry Ramsden’s in Glasgow last night for old time’s sake, and we probably won’t ever be back. The service was slow, the food so-so, and the bathrooms disgusting. It has lost its Harryness, alas.