Monday, January 26, 2015

Sh!t falls apart at Falling Downs

The lead vehicle in our fleet here at Falling Downs for the past few months has been a Pontiac Torrent. They stopped building those about five years ago, so I know it's older than that, but by golly, it's been a flawless ride... until shit falls apart!

In hindsight, I should have realized that shit was falling apart even as I bought the damned thing. It looked good and ran mint except for one little thing; there was a slight vibration right around 25 mph. It wasn't there at 20, it wasn't there at 30, but right around 25, there was a slight vibration.

This is an "all wheel drive" Torrent, so you naturally figure the premium you pay for all wheel drive is gonna be made up by the savings accruing from never having to plow your driveway again. And for the first few months, that was looking good!

I'd made a couple of strategic gambles with my snow-plowing technology this year. I scored a sweet deal on a ten year old Craftsman snow-blower over the summer, owned by a auto mechanic, so I figured, hell, I don't think I'll even bother hooking the big snow-blower up to the old Ford tractor this winter. That's always a exercise in overkill anyway.

In the first place, it's a diesel, so you gotta plug it in four or five hours before you plan to blow snow. In these parts you can go from clear blue skies to full-on blizzard in half an hour, so knowing when to plug her in is always more of an art than a science.

You plug it in, wait four or five hours, and you've got the job done in five minutes! See what I mean about overkill!

Unless of course something goes awry with the blower itself. Usually this comes about when I run over some miscellaneous detritus buried in the snow I'm trying to clear. You gotta bear in mind that I got this rig as a hand-me down from my dear Daddy, who replaced all the shear pins with Grade 8 hardened steel bolts just to make sure they didn't break!

Long story short, you find yourself fucking around for hours in the middle of a blizzard, 25 degrees below zero, 125 with the wind chill factored in, trying to replace a master link in the drive chain when your fingers are long past having any feeling.

Anyway, I got that 12 and a half horse 32" Craftsman now, and all wheel drive on the main ride, and I'm thinking, winter?... BRING IT ON!

So we get that blizzard right around new year's eve, dumps two feet of snow, and wouldn't you know it, the electric start on that new 10 year-old-old Craftsman don't work! After a couple of hundred pulls on the rope, I come to the conclusion that ain't gonna work either!

But, have no fear, that all-wheel-drive Torrent gets me out the drive like it's July!

I have been vindicated!

Unfortunately, that little vibration at 25 mph is now a bigger vibration. In fact, it's becoming a scary big vibration. There was a time I succeeded in convincing myself that maybe it was just an out-of-balance tire... that's long over.

I gradually come to the conclusion that this ain't gonna fix itself.

There was a time I used to attempt auto repairs on my own, but truth be told, I always found those three or four bolts and nuts left over after doing a brake job to be a little disconcerting.

Took the Torrent in to the professionals.

The professionals fixed 'er right up for just a tad under a thousand bucks!

Well fuck me!

That's the kinda thing that can just put me in a grumpy mood, if you know what I mean... hell, that's what, 30 or 35 cases of beer?

For fucks sakes!

So next day, I'm a little bummed out, reading my Globe cover to cover and hoping world events will take my mind off my driveway problems. The Farm Manager is doing a load of laundry, and at the outer reaches of my conciousness I hear something that doesn't sound right.

I try to block it out... but it still doesn't sound right.

In fact, it sounds like the washer is trying to give birth.

If a dog or a cat or a cow sounded like that while giving birth, you'd just shoot it and put it out of it's misery.

Then I hear, "the washer doesn't sound right."

No shit!

That Kenmore washer dryer combo is one of those stacking units, with the dryer on top. I must have been a younger man when I stacked them, because, by Jeezus, everything's a lot more unwieldy now. Let me tell you, having to do this for stuff that can't be more than three or four years old just burns my ass!

You buy Kenmore because it's going to last... ya right!

First job is pulling the combo out of the little alcove where this old farmhouse used to have a utility sink when it was built a hundred years ago. That's where I got my first surprise.

We feed a couple of lazy ass cats around here because we figure they keep the mice away. What's behind the washer-dryer combo?

Mouse shit and peanut shells!

The only place they coulda found fuckin' peanuts is ON THE FUCKING KITCHEN TABLE around Christmas time!

For fucks sakes!

We feed these fucking cats and they're snoozing it up while the mouse family marches over their noses and up the table legs and carries off a bunch of peanuts?

And we shower those cats with kitty treats and accolades because they drop half a mouse carcass in front of us once a month?



But that's not the worst of it.

I distinctly remember, not more than a couple of years ago, I could slide in and out of that alcove like nothing. Now I can hardly get my corpulent belly back there...


Anyway, looks like the bearing in that main tub is gone. Gotta find a hub puller to get the drive wheel off. I know I've got three or four hub pullers here and there, but for fucks sakes, I think I'll just buy one instead of spending 12 hours searching the shop.

I really really AM going to organize the shop next summer.

Ya, shit falls apart...

Luckily, Orville one farm over has been blowing out the driveway... which reminds me, he's probably due for another bottle of brandy soon...

Mr. Baird, this is how grown-ups do diplomacy

Canada's Foreign Minister is famous for his over-the-top toadying in front of the pro-settler regime in Tel Aviv. Here's a typical effort from a press release of 18 Jan;

“Canada and Israel share similar views on the world stage,” said Baird. “Canada strongly supports Israel’s right to defend itself by itself and its right to live in peace with its neighbours. Canada will fight any efforts internationally to delegitimize the State of Israel, including the disturbing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.”

It's worth noting that his meeting with Israeli FM Lieberman was held in Jerusalem, not in Tel Aviv, a breach of protocol that passed entirely without comment in Canadian media.

Baird is also famous for his hysterical hectoring of Russia, ripping forth anti-Russian rants at the rate of about one a week. Here is his latest masterpiece from 24 Jan;

“Canada is outraged at today’s indiscriminate rocket attacks against the city of Mariupol by the Russian-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine, leaving dozens of innocent civilians dead.
“These attacks come after the insurgents announced their intention to launch a new offensive, in flagrant violation of the Minsk ceasefire agreements reached in September.
“This disgraceful act further demonstrates Russia’s ongoing campaign of aggression against Ukraine and its shocking willingness to sacrifice civilian lives to achieve its illegitimate goals.
“We call on Russia to immediately respect the ceasefire, immediately end its support of these proxies and allow peace to return to eastern Ukraine.
“As Canada mourns the victims of the shameful attacks on Mariupol, we, in consultation with the Ukrainian government, our partners and our allies, are examining our options for enacting further measures to dissuade Russia from continuing along this destructive path. Canada also fully supports the Government of Ukraine’s call for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council.”
Note the accusatory tone and the wealth of undiplomatic language... "outraged"... "indiscriminate rocket attacks"... "flagrant violation"... "disgraceful"... "shocking"... "shameful"...
Remember, this is coming from our top diplomat!
Then today we find this press release on the website of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs;

26 Jan 2015
​With regard to negotiations with Iran, FM Liberman said that Israel's position is that no agreement is preferable to a bad agreement, and all options remain on the table.
(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Media Advisor)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman met today (Monday 26 January 2015) in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
At the meeting, the two foreign ministers discussed the continued strengthening of Israel-Russia bilateral relations and cooperation, and signed a memorandum of understanding between the foreign ministries of the two countries.

Ministers Liberman and Lavrov also discussed Middle Eastern events, with an emphasis on events in Syria and Lebanon. FM Liberman clarified Israel's position and red lines with regard to occurrences on the northern border.
With regard to Iran, FM Liberman said that we are closely monitoring the negotiations between world powers and Iran, and that Israel's position is that no agreement is preferable to a bad agreement. He added that Israel is keeping all options on the table.
FM Liberman also raised the issue of the Palestinian appeal to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and stated that Russia, like other countries, should understand that these moves, aimed at turning the ICC into a political tool, are unjustified and may eventually cause them harm as well.
Ministers Liberman and Lavrov also discussed a host of bilateral issues, including the issue of pensions, visiting lecturers from both sides and other consular issues. With regard to the pension issue, FM Liberman said that it is especially important to resolve the matter now, as we are approaching the 70th anniversary of the victory over the Nazis.

How refreshing! 
No hectoring! No name-calling! The Russian and the Israeli Foreign Minister's can discuss matters on which they have profound differences of opinion, and still manage to sign a memorandum of understanding!
That's how the big boys do diplomacy, Mr. Baird!
And by the way, when your friend Mr. Yatsenyuk claimed the other day that the USSR invaded Germany in WWll, should that not have set off some alarm bells?
Yatsenyuk is a fabulist, Poroshenko is a serial liar bent on drawing any ally he can find into his squabble with the Kremlin, but all we ever hear from you is Russia bad, Ukraine good.
Mr. Baird, you're an embarrassment to your country!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

These guys aren't fighting a war; they're posing for a photograph

Ukrainian servicemen fire their weapons during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Pesky village, near Donetsk January 21, 2015. REUTERS-Oleksandr Klymenko

Reuters wants me to believe that these guys are fighting those dastardly pro-Russian separatists.

You know the ones... Putin's boys.

Ya, you've read all about them, the "little green men" and all that stuff. In fact, ever since the shoot-down of MH-317 we've had a non-stop stream of anti-Russian invective.

Yet not the slightest shred of anything that could even loosely be construed as "proof."

Today Poroshenko stood in front of the assembled multitude at Davos and claimed, once again, that thousands of Russian troops and hundreds of Russian tanks have invaded Ukraine... but not a single Ukrainian has managed to upload a single selfie in front of one of those troops or one of those tanks.

That's how we know Poroshenko is lying.

Fuck the future; how the debasement of adjuncts/sessionals and tertiary intellectual workers imperils the academy and beyond

Andrew Bricker, who the Globe and Mail informs me is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at McGill University, has a really depressing article on page R7 of today's Globe.

Bricker, like a lot of extravagantly over-qualified people, doesn't seem to be able to find a tenure-track position.

This is nothing new. I remember an adjunct professor, or a "sessional" as we call them in Canada, lamenting the fact that he had been juggling sessional gigs for ten years. Over a pint after class he divulged that he sincerely regretted not becoming a high-school teacher. After all, there are no sessional high school teachers. Even the supply teachers are covered by union contracts that, unlike the contracts at the University level, are backed up by unions that still have some schlep.

Quite unlike the Canadian Association for University Teachers.

So if Professor Davis was having a tough time of it back in 1982, it's apparently a thousand times worse in 2015.

Which fact will hurt all of us in the long run.

The sad truth is that full time tenure track appointments in today's universities go to people who can "add value" to the institution.

And value is today measured only in dollars.

In the short term, this is an existential crisis for Bricker and tens of thousands like him. We're creating an over-educated underclass.

In the long run, we'll all be poorer for it.

Bibi claims moral high ground in feud with der Schwartze

The Greatest Leader Since Moses today claimed the moral high ground in his controversial plans to take his election campaign before a joint session of Congress.

It's not crass grandstanding, rather, it is a "moral obligation!"

As is the norm at election time in Israel, the "existential threat" of the imaginary Iranian nukes gets moved from the back burner to the front page;

“As prime minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weaponry that will be aimed at the state of Israel. This effort is global and I will go anywhere I am invited to make the state of Israel’s case and defend its future and existence."

This is of course the classic Netanyahu strategy of fear-mongering that has profited him so handsomely throughout his career. Whip up a little anti-Iranian hysteria, maybe provoke a border incident here and there, and then present yourself as the strong hand willing to face down those threats!

Works like a charm!

There are signs, however, that the charm is wearing thin. The New York Times has gone so far as to warn that Netanyahu's cynical grandstanding threatens to further strain Israel US relations.

However gratifying it may be for Netanyahu to show the Israeli voters that he has more support in Congress than Obama does, there's a creeping Bibi-skepticism taking root beyond the Beltway. 

Israeli intransigence, personified to perfection in Netanyahu, is gradually eroding support among traditional allies. This seems for now to be more apparent to diaspora Jews than in Israel. It's safe to say that Netanyahu's popularity drops off precipitously outside of Congress, even among Jewish Americans.

Pretending that his trip to Washington is anything other than crass electioneering is of course part and parcel of the crass electioneering, but is it really wise to take this opportunity to poke Obama in the eye?   

Brits taking for-profit justice to the next level

I'd always thought the bare-knuckle capitalists south of the border were the world leaders in profiting from the incarceration of the less fortunate. The visionary leadership of corporations like Wackenhut and CCA, combined with an all-out war on America's black underclass (more often known by its politically correct handle, "The War on Drugs") has made it socially acceptable to wring a profit from the confinement of others.

But it looks like the Brits are leading the way in taking this repugnant practice to the next level. Until this morning, I had no idea that Her Majesty's justice ministry has a "commercial arm!"

Who knew?

What better way to boost government revenues than by exporting the Ministry of Justice's expertise in the care and feeding of the delinquent?

Makes sense when you think about it. Instead of farming out inmate management to the private sector, make the Ministry itself a profit centre!

I'm just surprised the Americans didn't think of it first, what with their substantially greater experience in imprisoning vast swathes of their population!

And what better place to start than in Saudi Arabia. No pesky human-rights whinge-bags dogging your every step, because that lot is already locked up!

Sounds like easy money! Top marks to the Cameron crew on this one!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Harper regime dispatches Edmonton toweller to US gulag

I must have been asleep at the switch, cause I never saw this one coming. Seems Sayfildin Tahir Sharif was somehow helping out the bad guys that want to destroy our way of life etc.

Sharif seems to be an other-wise rock solid Canadian who regrettably fell in with the jihadi crowd.

Now he's gonna take his chances with the American justice system.

Good luck with that!

What puzzles me is that I thought Canada didn't extradite people to countries where the death penalty or torture were indulged.

The USA still toasts and roasts their death row losers with reckless abandon, and even the Great Black Hope admits they torture folks, so what went wrong here?