One Way I Don’t Hate Canada

For a while I thought that Canadians had nothing in common except the fact nobody there, with the exception of a boatload of hippies, was American. I whimiscally decided that, in order to be taken seriously, a country needs someone outside the country to hate it (besides the Quebecois)–and everybody was ignoring them. So I’ve been politely loathing Canada and things Canadian as my bit to help out Canadian sovereignty. Since every Canadian I met seemed to despise my country for being so violent, blah blah blah, I thought it a cry for attention and was willing to throw you lot a bone.

However, Grant McCracken undermines my efforts when he writes:

Plainly and simply, our neighbour needed us to close ranks, show solidarity, and present a single face to the dithering world community.

Er, no. If you’re really feeling indebted for those years of protection (which would assume we were doing this purely out of the kindness of our heart instead of needing a conveniently safe place to put the DEW Line), nothing says “thank you” like cash–maybe all that money you save on prescription drugs and not having any police since everyone up there is pure as the wind-driven snow, which I gather you have much experience with.

Seriously, just because we were determined to start a war on the thinnest of evidence doesn’t mean you’re less a friend (or a bratty younger brother) if you don’t follow us in. That’s like saying if Americans all started drinking heavily and going for a dip in the ocean, it would be Canada’s job to do the same to show solidarity to the world.

If you think it was right to go to war anyway because Saddam was a bad guy and for some reason was more important than all the other bad guys out there, fine. Criticize your government on that basis. But quite frankly it’s stupid to do it just because your ally has a yen. If that were so, how much shame would you put on the US (or, for that matter, yourselves) over the Suez crisis? I don’t hear anybody rushing to say Canada needed to put in troops in a land grab because you got a system of common laws from the UK and share a monarch.

If Canada were to say “Hey, we won’t go into Afghanistan because, well, thanks for the low, low prices on all the F-18s, but hey, we don’t want to become a target for the next 9/11, eh,” that would be ingratitude. That was the place to stand up and show solidarity. But to make a judgment that evidence of a threat from Saddam is insufficient, particularly when history has proven that judgment right and the American (and, honestly, mine at the time) judgment wrong, is not something to criticize.

Now, if you make the argument that the decision was taken on this visceral anti-Americanism you describe, the reasoning might be worthy of criticism. But so far, this is one of the few things I think Canada can feel just a bit smug aboot.

And remember, I hate Canada. Politely.

Planes Down, Grozny Rebel Attack in Russia

Looks like terrorism may be reaching Russia, as the same day that 250 rebels are staging an attack on Grozny in advance of Putin’s weekend visit there, two planes from the same airport have disappeared from radar within minutes of each other in two different places in Russia. One has been confirmed to have crashed.

Two planes, simultaneously crashing? Smells like Al Quaeda. They love simultaneous bombs.

Well, I guess GWB will get some more support from Putin, if this pans out like I suspect.

Restaurant Recommendation: Mark’s Duck House

Mark’s Duck House took me a bit to find but it saves me from having to schlep to Rockville every time I want good dim sum. Unfortunately it only serves dim sum on the weekend, but it’s worth it. I’ve found that dim sum is best when you avoid the expensive fried dishes and go for the steamed items–they may not show them to you, but ask for the steamed pork buns. There are some non-steamed ones that are on the lower trays of the fried food carts (the buns without the yellow frosting) that are also worth a try–both kinds are sweet and savory at the same time, but with different twists. For desert, I actually prefer the yellow-frosted buns to the egg custard.

Make sure you go for the small shrimp dishes on the steam cart. These are also some of the cheapest items on the menu, so you can get out of there with about $8 per person including tip and be quite full.

The restaurant is at 6184-A Arlington Boulevard at Seven Corners. It’s on Route 50 just northeast of the shopping center where the DC Sniper shot the woman from the FBI. Sad to think of that as a landmark, but it might be more descriptive. It took me a bit to find, but it’s worth it.

XBox? Try Solitaire for Violence!

As this article suggests, instead of maligning the XBox with motives for killing, try Solitaire, the game that Microsoft puts on every computer that runs its operating system!

Of course, the headlines are about the Olympics, and the XBox killings should have been the Vacation Property killings, but that’s modern journalism for you.

I’d also like to point out that this proves that the rest of the world is every bit as fucked up as my own sweet country, so there.

China — Kyoto’s Dirty Big Secret

The Adam Smith Institute has a good summary of China’s role in your pain at the pump. In even more brief, China’s increasing energy usage is outstripping supply, and will continue to drive up fossil fuel prices.

Unfortunately, China is not using that oil as efficiently as large Western countries. However, the Kyoto protocol, which Western countries (infamously save the US) signed, doesn’t let Western countries get credit for emissions reduction in developing countries like China. This is profoundly stupid.

The largest growth in raw material consumption will be in the less-developed countries, as they have further to go to achieve the state of the art in development. So if they are going to be burning more oil for the same kilowatt hour of electricity, doesn’t it make sense to make them more efficient as they grow, rather than trying to limit consumption in the West which is much closer to the theoretical maximum of efficiency?

If you redirect pollution reduction efforts to areas where they can be done most cost-effectively, everybody wins—assuming you’re dead-set on making the reductions. China gets more efficient plants and reduces energy expenditures, and the West doesn’t have to pay as much per ton of carbon eliminated from the atmosphere.

However, I suspect that vision would enrage many environmental activists who are more interested in economic hairshirt practices and ideological purity than actual reductions in pollution.

Plus setting targets for pollution reduction in developing countries scares the bejebus out of them, as they instinctively know what the EU claims not to know: any distortion of the market results in lower overall wealth creation. Their legitimacy is now tied to how well they sustain their rates of growth, and they fear any measure that might mitigate that. At the same time, there is an overall lack of trust in true market mechanisms to distribute pollution reduction more efficiently than bureaucrats.

To tie this all together, if Kyoto had allowed reductions in developing countries, the US would have likely signed. If the US had signed and started making reductions in China, Chinese demand might be slightly reduced, and projections of its future demand would definitely be reduced. In all likelihood, you’d pay less at the pump.

In the meantime, enjoy the last few years you can use your SUV without taking out a third mortgage.

A Guy Goes Into a Housebuilder’s Office…

…and the housebuilder says, “Hey, your new house is just about done, here are some pictures from the construction. We just need to finish painting and everything will be ready.”

The customer says, “That’s great, but I think we need more windows. Can we put in some more windows? And instead of 3 bedrooms I’d like 4, but we can take out one of the baths and some of the yard so it should even out. Can you do that by next Thursday?”

The homebuilder is aghast. “Well, I could make those changes, but certainly not by next Thursday. I’ll get with the architect and my suppliers and see if we can present you with a design and an estimate, then we can talk schedule.”

The customer stares at the homebuilder quizzically. “What do you mean, estimate? I’ve already agreed to pay you $450,000 for the house, and the contract was for a house. Now, if I could just show your guys kind of what I want out at the site, I’m sure they could build it. If you don’t do it, I’m afraid I’m going to withhold payment and find a new contractor.”

Crazy, right? But this happens in software development projects many, many times per day, just in the USA. You can’t redesign a house at the last second without bad things happening to the architecture. A Web application is no different.

You certainly can’t expect to get more house for the same money just because you claim you didn’t understand the plans. Yet clients continually ask for more despite the fact they’ve never paid for it and have signed a contract stating exactly what they’ll get.

The only thing that’s different is that in software, there are no materials costs, just labor. But if you think it’s materials that make houses so expensive, you must rent.

It’s sometimes a wonder to me that we managed to climb out of the primordial ooze, let alone evolve opposable thumbs.