Friday, March 13, 2009

Hail and Farewell, Sort Of

Well, as I'm sure you've noticed, there's not been a lot of thumping going on over here lately. In fact, there hasn't been any thumping for almost exactly a year. And it is my sad duty to inform you that this post will probably be the last bit of thumping done here.

So that's the bad news, maybe. The good news, maybe, is that I have another blog. I've been over there for about a year now (coincidence? I think not). It's the same, but different (less swearing, more Latin). So why make the change? The reasons include but are not limited to:

  • Desire to unify my online personae. I did have about four, and I think I've got it down to one now; if you come across "Chunklets" in the blogosphere or on messageboards, it's probably me.
  • A fervent wish to write a blog that my family could read.
  • And the old standby - it was simply time for a change.

So, thank you all very sincerely for reading and commenting here, and I hope to see you all over at the newish place!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Submitted with Sadness

Dungeons and Dragons creator dies

Gary Gygax, co-creator of the first role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, has died at the age of 69.

If you totalled up the number of hours I've spent playing D&D, and some of its offshoots, sin I began as a wee sprout in Junior Hight School, it would probably total something like a year of my life.

R.I.P., and Thank You, to Gary Gygax, for creating a hobby that has brought so much pleasure, and good company (I have a nephew because of D&D), to so many millions of people. Long may it continue to do so!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Events of Yesterday

Insert Obvious Caption Here

  • The size of the Tory majority was greater than I'd thought it would be.
  • The size of the voter turnout was smaller than expected. These two points may be related.
  • The Wildrose Alliance Party got deservedly shut out.
  • Craig Chandler did not get elected.
  • Rachel Notley did, so virtue, in that small regard, triumphed.
  • The Tories may now hold the majority in Edmonton, but they're going to have to work to keep it. Edmonton voters get pissed off fairly easily.
  • As Alison has pointed out at Creekside, many Alberta voters will now be represented by very few MLAs. This election was among other things, a scream for some nod to proportional representation.
  • The Green Party did very well, doubling their vote from last time out.
  • Our riding saw the Liberal incumbent defeated by a Tory newcomer. This isn't too surprising, as our riding has gone back and forth between the two parties over the last few provincial elections.
  • Ed Stelmach has been, and will be, a far better premier than Ralph Klein. This does not mean that he has been, or will be, a good premier.
  • Alberta is once again the political laughing stock of Canada. This time out, Alberta earned it.
  • Oddly enought, Calgary has now has more Liberals in the legislature than Edmonton. That didn't used to happen...
  • Edmonton, however, has the only two NDPers.
  • Despite having one quarter the number of seats that the Liberals do, the NDP is actually in better shape for the next election. The Liberals have got to pretty much start over, while the NDP already has (and don't underestimate the Notley name being back in their ranks).
  • The Wildrose Alliance may go away, but the people involved with it will put something else together to try to lure the lunatic right vote away from the Tories.
  • Even with a small number of seats, the opposition should still be able to hold Ed Stelmach's feet to the fire, at least a certain amount of the time.

Monday, March 03, 2008

'Tis Election Day!

So, we're straggling off to the polls today through the remnants of a late-winter/early-spring snowfall. Well, in all likelihood, something less than 50% of registered voters are doing that. It's provincial election day here, and this time, there's actually some interest in what the results are going to be! The Tories will be ecstatic if their majority grows, or at least doesn't shrink too much (except the legion of Tories who hate Ed Stelmach - they're hoping for disaster, but not enough of a disaster to cost them any real power). The Liberals will call it a success if they increase their seat count, and they'll be over the moon if they could actually force the Tories into a minority government. I don't the NDP are going to be happy at all; they're trailing the Liberals in most places, and will be lucky to hang on to what they've got. The Wildrose Alliance thingy will be happy if everybody in the rest of Canada dies. And the Alberta Greens will be pleased if somebody just notices them.

My prediction - Tory majority, again, with perhaps some modest gains by the Liberals. I see the NDP keeping roughly the same number of seats. The Wildrose Alliance folks could double their seat-count, which would give them two (is the era of Link Byfield, MLA, upon us?). The Greens will continue to get no love in this neck of the woods.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Provincial Election. We Haz It.

Alberta premier calls election
Jason Markusoff and Archie McLean,
Published: Monday, February 04

EDMONTON - And they're off - and they're all in favour of ending health-care premiums.

Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach formally announced a March 3 election this afternoon, hours after his government's throne speech said the Tories would eliminate health care premiums by 2012.

Safe to say, this is not a surprise election call... The Tory candidate in our riding actually showed up on my doorstep on Sunday morning, waving campaign literature (politely accepted) and asking permission to put up a sign (politely declined). He seemed an pleasant chap, but I'm still not voting for him.

Conventional wisdom on this one is that the Conservatives will probably lose some seats, but I don't think anybody really expects them to lose the election. There is the outside possibility that we'll end up with a minority government, but I think even that's a long-shot. Part of the problem is that none of the opposition parties really show much sign of having the ability to make a run at ousting the Tories. Parallels have been drawn between Ed Stelmach and Harry Strom, but I think they overlook the fact that, when the Socreds were finally ousted from government, the man doing the ousting was Peter freakin' Lougheed. Kevin Taft and Brian Mason, while excellent fellows both, are a bit lacking in the charisma department compared to Lougheed.

Much more importantly, though, is that the upcoming provincial election means that it's time for another Oi! Thump! Election Guide! It will begin as soon as I've figured out what form the snark will take this time around!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


So, we lost a good one last week:

Ex-Alberta NDP leader dies

EDMONTON - Pam Barrett was a firecracker of Alberta politics who fought for the little guy, never backed away from a scrap and became a respected opponent of her political foes.

The former leader of the Alberta New Democrats died in hospital Monday night after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 54.

I had the great priviledge of meeting Pam Barrett socially, at a party one evening, and she was a most impressive individual. Probably my favourite moment of her career was her forcing Ralph Klein to back away from legislation which would have prevented those mentally handicapped people who were sterilized without their consent or knowledge during the 1960s from suing for compensation. Barrett and the NDP backed the provincial Conservatives down despite being outnumbered, seat-wise, about 20-to-1 (she was actually pretty good friends with Klein, despite their political differences - I wonder what she would have done with Ed Stelmach?).

Pam Barrett will be missed!

Insert Bitching About The Weather Here!

Yes, it is cold here (our little thermometer bottomed out this morning, so at the warmest it was -40). Edmonton Transit, to their eternal credit, has broken out the cold-weather protocols - increased frequency of busses, express routes stopping where they usually don't, etc. However, it's gonna be nasty around here for the next few days. At least the wind has stopped; it was -35 and blowing hard yesterday, and the hour I spent outside clearing wind-packed drifts was not a pleasant time in any way, shape, or form.

Anyway, weather-bitching over, catch-up blogging to follow!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Interactive Edition

Gentle readers, I am need of your aid. I've been working on a little project related to Greek mythology, and in the course of it I came across this image:

Click the image for a truly gigantic version.

The provenance of the piece is unknown, although it originally decorated the base of a statue of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, and probably dates to the third century A.D. The statue was part of the collection of Cardinal Albani, and was set up in his villa at Porta Salaria in about 1763. When the Papal States capitulated to Napoleon in 1797, the piece was seized under the terms of the Treaty of Tolentino, and taken to France. Although it was formally returned to the Vatican in 1815, Louis XVIII of France re-purchased it along with several other confiscated works of art, and it resides today in the Louvre.

What is depicted on the relief is the creation of the human race from clay by the Titan Prometheus. He is seated, in the shade of a tree, on the right hand side of the image, and is just finishing the moulding of a male figure. On the left side of the image is the goddess Minerva, easily recognizable by her helmet and spear, and by the gorgon's head on her breastplate. Between them a number of newly created people are cavorting about.

My question for you folks is this: What is Minerva holding in her right hand, and what is she doing with it? It looks a little bit like a bird (her iconic owl, perhaps?), but if so she's holding it in a very strange way. Anyway, post theories, speculation, ideas, etc. in the comments! Also, if you have any thoughts on who the being in the tree is, I'd love to hear those as well! For the record, the project was simply to find images of Prometheus; I'm interested in the Minerva figure out of mere curiosity.

Click here - you know you want to! (Friday Archaeology Blogging will be along shortly)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Close to Home Edition

First off, Happy New Year to everyone!

Now, down to business! We've had archaeological happenings right here in Edmonton over the past few days! The city is in the midst of extending the LRT (that's the subway, in case anyone's wondering, although the current stretch is above ground) into the south side of Edmonton, and the other day the construction crews managed to turn up human remains. These were quickly deemed to be "historical," and the anthropologists have been called in.

Yet unidentified human remains

The city has since decided to do exactly the right thing, and proceed with great care and caution in the area involved:

City halts LRT work
Archeologist called in after human remains unearthed

Native activists breathed a sigh of relief after the city halted construction on a controversial stretch of the south LRT extension until an archeologist can be hired to supervise the work.

City hall announced the move yesterday, four days after human remains were discovered by excavation crews working near 111 Street and 43 Avenue.

Now, the main question revolves around the identity of the body found. Chances are quite good that is a member of the group of Cree who settled in the area under Chief Papaschase in the 1850s. For awhile, they lived on a reservation of about 40 square miles in what is now the southern section of the City of Edmonton, but, in the later years of the 19th century, a combination of famine and bureaucratic slight-of-hand saw them removed from that land and merged rather abruptly with the Enoch Cree to the west (they were actually treated quite shabbily by various levels of government, and there has been recent litigation over this). Interestingly, one of the major inciters of the removal of the Papaschase Cree was Frank Oliver, one of Edmonton's early movers and shakers, and a man who now has an entire neighbourhood named after him. There is a great deal more information about the Papaschase Cree here.

One other issue has been raised by the discovery of these remains, and it's the problem of what to do when development and archaeology butt heads. Edmonton is not, for example, Rome, where long experience has led to the creation of laws and guidelines that allow development to proceed and archaeology to be done properly. It's a bit tricky; the laws must protect archaeology without tempting the developers to conceal, or worse, destroy archaeological sites (I should point out here that I'm not accusing all developers of being prone to that sort of thing; a recent development near where my father lives in Ontario turned up archaeological remains, and the developer immediately halted work, called in archaeologists, redrew the plans for the development to protect the site, and generally carried on as though he found the archaeological finds far more interesting than he did the construction of his building). No such laws exist in Edmonton, and it would be a good idea for City Council to sit down and draw some up, particularly as this particular Council seems very eager to embark on large construction projects!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Holiday Hiatus!

Blogging is likely to be rare around here until about New Year's Day, at which point normal service will be resumed! In the meantime, Buon Natale to all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The World's Smallest Violin Plays Just For Craig Chandler

Rejected Tory candidate declares Independent run
Last Updated: Monday, December 17, 2007 | 12:42 PM MT
CBC News

Rejected provincial Tory candidate Craig Chandler announced Monday he will run as an Independent in Calgary-Egmont.

Probably inevitable. Chandler, in fact, is bringing along a few of his fellow fundamentalist travellers to run in some other Calgary ridings. This will mean that, in some ridings, there will be essentially FOUR parties hunting for the hard-right vote: the PCs, the Alberta Alliance, the Wildrose Party, and the Chandlerite Front. Can you say "internecine," boys and girls?

Chandler promised to launch a human rights complaint against the Tories, alleging they were intolerant by rejecting his candidacy and religious beliefs.

"I think because I have those views I am being persecuted," he said.

Poor man! Barred from running for office in Calgary-Egmont, this victim of horrid religious persecution has been reduced to, um, running for office in, ah, that would be Calgary-Egmont...

Like all others of his ilk who don't get exactly what they want, Chandler is behaving, in the words of my Grandmother, as though somebody'd actually done something to him.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Arrrrrrrrrrrrrh, Matey Edition

Pirate of the Caribbean’s ship is discovered
James Bone in New York

The discovery of Captain Kidd's 300-year-old ship in the Caribbean could provide final proof that the Scottish privateer did not deserve to be hanged as a pirate and his rotting body left on public view.

The wreck of the fabled Quedagh Merchant has been located in 10ft waters off Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic, only miles from where Kidd left it when he sailed to Boston to try to clear his name in 1699.

The Quedagh Merchant (the larger of the two ships in the engraving above) was actually captured by Kidd in the Indian Ocean, and he converted it to his own use, as his previous vessel was borderline unseaworthy. Kidd then sailed the Quedagh Merchant to the Caribbean, where he left it when he turned himself in to fight charges of piracy. He was subsequently executed in England, and the vessel was later scuttled, as the article indicates, at Catalina Island.

Map of the Dominican Republic - Click to see larger version. Catalina Island is the tiny island right on the 69th meridian south of La Romana.

“It would confirm that he was telling the truth,” said Richard Zacks, author of The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd. “He has the reputation as a terrible fearsome pirate, when he considered himself an honourable privateer.”

I'm not so sure about this. Kidd was a legal privateer, having been given a letter of marque allowing him to harass French vessels. However, the problem seems to have been that he wasn't very good at it. In fact, his expedition to the Indian Ocean had been pretty much a failure until the Quedagh Merchant hove in view. Only in a very narrow, legalistic, view was the ship in fact French; it was, more realistically, Armenian, and was in fact captained by an Englishman. Furthermore, after taking the Quedagh Merchant, Kidd apparently traded with a known pirate, something prohibited strictly under the law. Kidd's attempts to explain away these matters in court were extremely unconvincing, and led to the fairly inevitable end for people convicted of piracy.

There are, of course, still some doubts about whether the discovered vessel is really the Quedagh Merchant, but its location and the fact that it shows signs of having been scuttled, make the identification likely. In and of itself, the discovery of the vessel is not terribly significant, but it must be admitted that finding an actual pirate ship, particularly one associated with as famous a name as Captain William Kidd, is pretty cool. The pictures below show divers from Indiana University at work on the wreck.

Click to see larger version

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sad News

Writer Pratchett has Alzheimer's

THE best-selling fantasy author Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

I have been a huge fan of Terry Pratchett's books ever since the first time I read one of them (it was Hogfather, for the record). Pratchett is, in my humble opinion, funnier than Douglas Adams (for one thing, he's not as cynical as Adams), and possesses the rare ability to mix comedy with truly serious situations.

Anyway, it appears that we're going to lose a genuinely funny man far too early (he's only 59).

In other news, Friday Archaeology Blogging will be along tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lame Moments in Sports Nos. 17-102

86 baseball players singled out as having taken performance-enhancing drugs (warning: link opens a PDF). 86!!!! Now, this is, of course, not as horrendous a thing, as, say, this horrendous thing, but it's still a bit of a shock, and baseball fans have got to be a pretty angry bunch today. Two current Blue Jays were mentioned: Troy Glaus (this suprised nobody - he'd been under investigation since late last season) and Gregg Zaun (whom I'd thought better of). Some of the other players named, with my comments:

Roger Clemens: Probably the biggest name mentioned.

Andy Pettite: This did surprise me, as Pettite's always had a fairly squeaky-clean image.

Miguel Tejada: Ooooh, the Houston Astros are pissed off today! Exactly one day after they traded for the guy, he's outed as having purchased (and presumably used) PEDs.

John Rocker: Bigot, homophobe, and now cheat. Rocker's a real quality guy...

Joe Carter: Was not mentioned in the report, thankfully! I'd hate to see the gloriousness of this tarnished (I'd point out that Carlos Delgado was not mentioned either - hooray!):