Sunday, December 23, 2007


I've got a novelty Christmas tie which features Santa lounging on a beach in shorts and sunglasses, enjoying the warm sun.

Today while leaning over the oven door to remove a casserole, I accidentally let my tie make brief contact with the hot metal of the door's inside, and instantly the cheap fabric returned to its primal state and became one with the door, leaving a gaping hole on the bottom of the tie. Here's me being sad:

So I've learned two lessons: First, tuck in your tie when you lean over a hot oven door, and second, don't buy cheap neckties.

By the way... with the demise of this tie I am now without a novelty Christmas tie (o woe is me!), in case anybody's scrambling for a last-minute gift idea. If you read this too late for Christmas, don't worry - my birthday's in January. :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lazy Season

Some of my readers may be familiar with the ancient, obscure tradition of Advent and Christmas. This is the celebration of the incarnation of the living God into human form, come to save us from our sins.

Faithful adherence to this religious holiday season has long faded into the past, and I suppose many of you are completely unfamiliar with the holiday, as its active celebration is practiced only by a tiny minority of those populating the Western world.

I am one of them. Shocked?

With the business of the season, all the parties, the Christmas pageants, the shoveling snow, the Masses, the gift giving, and the year-end duties to which I must attend at work, I hereby grant myself a reprieve from my unwritten self-expectation to blog every 2-3 days for the next few weeks. I also hereby grant my readers a dispensation from reading my blog regularly during this season.

Not to say that I won't publish at all - if something worthy comes my way, you'll be the first to know. Or at least the first person to read the post will become the first to know. But I digress.

Once things are back to normal and our priests are wearing green again, I expect you all to return and resume your faithful reading of my mindless rantings.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Festivus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ballistics From the Bullet in Your Foot Match the Gun in Your Hand

Barry Walters, an associate professor of obstetric medicine at the University of Western Australia, expressed his wish recently that his country would stop paying a baby bonus to women who have children, and would instead levy a carbon tax against families when they have more than 2 kids.

Mr. Walters wants to follow reproductive role model nations like China, because "every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society." What, do Australian kids fart a lot?

I wonder if he's familiar with TFR - Total Fertility Rate. This is a measure of how successfully a nation is replacing its population. If the average woman has 2.1 children (2 to replace her and her husband, and 0.1 to replace the fraction of infertile or celibate women and women who die before having the opportunity to have babies) then the country's population will grow; if any less, it will shrink.

So one must assume that comments from such a learned individual imply that Australia is well over the 2.1 mark. Not so. As of 2005, they were hovering around 1.70, and aren't projected to climb back to 2.1 for the foreseeable future. Were it not for immigration, their population would be shrinking (look about halfway down that page and imagine what the graph would look like if the immigration number was 0 for each series). Much like Canada - we're less than 1.50. Britain? 1.60. France? 1.89. Italy, Germany, Spain? 1.23, 1.35, 1.15 respectively. What about the US of A? They're at a solid 2.11, the best rate in the Western world. This is one of the prime reasons why America continues to dominate on the world stage.

I get so tired of these talking heads who see children only as an expense on society. If, as Mr. Walters claims, a child does nothing but consume oxygen and resources, producing nothing but CO2 for the duration of his life, then I could see where he was coming from. But the child is solely a consumer for only the first 20 years or so, at which point he becomes a productive contributor to society. So when we have more kids, sure we have some short-term pain in regards to forking over the dough for the investments in the future they represent, but in the long run it pays off big-time.

If I felt like it, I could continue to crunch numbers for you (because I know how much my readers like math!) and prove economically that it's a better idea to have more children than fewer, but the argument should not hinge on economics. We must realize as a species that the mystery of new life is too amazing to pass up; we participate in God's creative design for the universe when we bring a new baby into the world, and to de-mystify the glory of this with mere money would be shameful.

This is what Mr. Walters has done. Fortunately, others have already put him in his place:

Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway said it was ridiculous to blame babies for global warming.

"I think self-important professors with silly ideas should have to pay carbon tax for all the hot air they create," she said. "There's masses of evidence to say that child-rich families have much lower resource consumption per head than other styles of households.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hockey Lives Here

Tonight gives me two good reasons to continue to cheer for the Ottawa Senators: First - they finally snapped their historic losing streak by defeating the - ahem - "mighty" Florida Panthers 5-4.

But second, their wives & girlfriends - known officially as "Sens Better Halves" - will be donating proceeds from their Christmas fund raiser to the Ottawa based First Place Pregnancy Centre, a pro-life counseling centre which leaves the hideous option of abortion off the table.

Heather Mallick, a CBC columnist, takes issue with the donation. Her opinion is really no big surprise, I mean, it's not like the CBC is teeming with pro-lifers. She is full of petty spout-offs like how the FPPC and its ilk have websites "designed to appeal to teenage girls, lots of advice about boys — giggle — and sites on MySpace. They take great care to look like kindly counselling centres. In fact, they exist solely to prevent abortion." Oh, the horror of it all! A group of people who work together to prevent the murder of innocents! We share your outrage, Heather. And your patronizing attitude. Puh-tooey.

It wouldn't take a lot of changes to make that exact phrase refer to what a Planned Parenthood website does - just change "prevent" to "encourage" and WHAMMO you're done.

But the real kicker of her piece is this: "Revenue Canada tells me that First Place is not a registered charity."

Read to the end of her tirade, and you'll see that her editor has added this: "Editor's note: Ms. Mallick clearly states that Revenue Canada told her First Place is not a registered charity. Links on the website's donation section show that it operates under a different name as a registered charity: Crisis Pregnancy Centre of Ottawa, registered as number 890251382RR0001."

That's real sloppy, Ms. Mallick. You're caught in that questionable void between a real journalist and a dedicated blogger: Both check their facts, and try to avoid tainting their writings with a closed mind. You did neither. Shame.

I strongly encourage all my readers to let the Sens and their Better Halves know how positively you view their choice of this charity. Follow this link for their Contact Form.

[UPDATE 12/7/07 09:33 - it seems the Better Halves have removed the FPPC from their list of recipients of the money... investigating...]

[UPDATE #2 - 12/7/23:34 - According to FPPC, they voluntarily withdrew their name from the list of recipients. A tough call, to be sure. If you want to support them in their mission, please donate.]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Sunday Mass this week was a rather dry and gloomy affair; winter had dumped its first criticism of global warming on us, music had been mostly cut out of the liturgy, and the decorations were the sparse inside joke of Advent purple.

In reading David Warren's recent column on Advent, I was struck by a saddening reality: we are a wretched people, obsessed with the latest electronic means of communication. The TV ads this time of year are all about the latest cellular phone (does anybody even call them that anymore?) or MP3 player.

They are also encouraging us, the lowly consumer, to be less concerned about receiving gifts, and more concerned about creating an excited reaction in those to whom we give our gifts. The Best Buy ads are a classic example - a husband is shopping for his wife, and asks the store employee where he can find an "I can't believe it! I can't believe it! How did you know? This is perfect!" There are a handful of other companies taking the same approach to advertising this Advent.

But looking for that reaction in itself creates an unhealthy dependency on the person to whom you're giving. It makes the giving a primarily selfish act.

This was not how God gave us his son. The Incarnation of Jesus was an event of mercy and love, not of a vainglorious praise-seeking exercise from the Father. Yes, our response is one of love, gratitude, and worship, but it's not our reaction he seeks - rather, it is our relationship.

That is the advantage of Advent: we are called to live austerely, and to prepare for the Lord's coming. We must not get caught up in the hype of our consumerist culture, buying and buying and buying. A great feast approaches us, and we must be ready to dine.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Preparations For War

Regarding building a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic, which is part of American plans for a European missile defense shield, American artist Kevin Kihn asks the compelling question, "Why not build a Peace Dome in its place?"

Uhh... gee, Kev, I dunno, uh... maybe because it won't shoot down missiles?

I invite my readers to come up with a punch line for what could soon become an old joke: What do you call a guy who thinks he can win peace by building a geodesic dome (aka Nature's Healing Secret!) under the flight paths of enemy WMDs?

To get you started, here's a few:

Put yours in the comments.