Saturday, November 25, 2006

Quick Note

Friday Archaeology Blogging will be on hiatus this week, since the Muse of Archaeology Blogging ("Troweliope" is her name, I believe), is apparently absent...

First Ballot Day!!

And, as Albertans trudge through the blowing snow and sub-minus-twenty temperatures to cast their votes, we present the last of the leadership candidates.

Mark Norris

  • Who He?: A former Tory rising star, his trek to the top hit a snag when Edmonton voters ungraciously dumped him out on his keister in the last provincial election. Since then, he's been working to get things back in order for his run at the party leadership.

  • Why Should Progressives Support Him?: He actually responded well, and classily, to his electoral defeat, putting his head down and getting back to work. His policies are somewhat vague, but there doesn't seem to be anything particularly loathesome in them (although see below). He seems like a nice guy. High praise indeed, I know...

  • Why Should We Not?: The above-mentioned policy vagueness shades over into actual weakness on issues like climate change (he wants to "promote Alberta's priorities" in that area, which is probably code for "not doing anything at all about climate change"). He bizarrely channels George W. Bush, of all people, on education issues, calling, verbatim, for a "No Child Left Behind" act. Weird...

  • Is He Likely To Pick Fights With Homeless People?: Probably not.

  • How are his chances?: He's a dark horse. If he gets to a second ballot, he make up support from people who don't like Ted Morton, and are leery about Jim Dinning's economic policies. Overall, he's not terribly likely to win, but it could happen.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Only A Couple More To Go

Todays candidate in the line of fire is...

Ted Morton

  • Who He?: A former U. of Calgary poli sci professor, who leapt into politics a while back apparently because we offended God in some way. Was one of our hilarious "senators in waiting" before deciding that provincial politics was a better way to get his grubby hands on the reins of power. He's very much the right-of-right's candidate.

  • Why Should Progressives Support Him?: Only because of the possibility that he would be so dreadful as premier that nobody would vote for his party, perhaps even to the point where he might take Harper down with him.

  • Why Should We Not?: Because he's a contemptible human being, whose only method of campaigning for political office is to try to set people against each other (Albertans against The Rest of Canada, straights against gays, Edmonton against Calgary, etc. etc.). Because he was the mastermind of the jaw-droppingly cynical attempt to weasel the province out of allowing gay marriages right before the leadership campaign. Because the only people he hates more than he hates gays are non-Albertan Canadians. Because every single element of his political ideology involves fucking people over. Because Lorne Gunther endorsed him. I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • Is He Likely To Pick Fights With Homeless People?: No, he might get hurt. He'll have his followers beat the homeless for him, probably on live TV.

  • How are his chances?: Depressingly good. He's still considered an underdog to Dinning, but should make the second ballot easily. After that, it'll depend on which of the two of them the other candidates support.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Some time ago, the Oi! Thump! Meditation Squad meditated on the bit of apparent police brutality that occurred during this past spring's infamous Oiler "riots." The OTMS duly noted that Chief Boyd had an opportunity to step up and perhaps improve relations between the local cops and Edmontonians. Apparently, he has done so! Witness this happy bit of news:

Chief orders hearing into Whyte arrest
Says review of possible misconduct ‘in the public interest’
Published: Monday, November 20, 2006

Edmonton police Chief Mike Boyd has ordered a hearing under the Police Act into the arrest of a woman who claims she was manhandled by police on Whyte Avenue after a playoff game in June.

"Claims she was manhandled", my ass. She was manhandled, and there's photographic proof of that. Anyway, the purpose of this is not to bash on people, but rather to say "well done" to the Chief, who is showing every sign so far of having been a good hire. He has, in this case, correctly identified "the public interest," and we all hope he keeps it up.

Todays's Wanna-Be Premier


Lyle Oberg

  • Who He?: MLA since 1993, and has held a number of cabinet portfolios. Recently booted out of the Tory caucus, then bizarrely reinstated. Was a medical doctor in private life, a fact which he is apparently quite fond of pointing out to people.

  • Why Should Progressives Support Him?: There's nothing particularly odious in his campaign platform (beyond his stance on youth justice - see below), although there's not much to make progressives stand up and cheer either. He's not afraid to speak his mind, either, even when doing so gets him in hot water.

  • Why Should We Not?: Well, he did stoop to indulge in the anti-youth silliness at a recent campaign forum, for which he was rightly slapped down by Dave Hancock and Gary MacPherson. He also has a reputation for being belligerent and confrontational, and not just in political circles either (there have long been tales of Obergian bad behaviour in pubs around the Legislature Building). In short, there's a pretty good supply of evidence that he's an asshole.

  • Is He Likely To Pick Fights With Homeless People?: Oh my, yes. And probably with everybody else, too.

  • How are his chances?: Poor, since nobody really likes him, and he keeps sticking his foot in his mouth. He could, conceivably, slip through to a second ballot, but's that's as far as it's going to go.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Provincial Tory Leadership Candidates: Two For The Price Of One!

Since I missed yesterday...

Jim Dinning

  • Who He?: Was provincial treasurer back in the day, and is usually given "credit" for being the brains behind Klein's budget savagry during the early 90s. Has been out of politics for some time, a fair amount of which he's apparently spent plotting his path to becoming Premier.

  • Why Should Progressives Support Him?: Well, he's certainly the best-organized of the candidates, doubtless due to the long time he's been preparing for this. He also seems to be a competent sort of public official, without any major ideological axes to grind. Lastly, he's received the endorsement of Peter Lougheed, and, despite Ralph Klein's blatherings to the contrary, a thumbs-up from the man who introduced Alberta's human rights act does count for something.

  • Why Should We Not?: As treasurer, he introduced policies that hurt a whole lot of people; he essentially fixed Alberta's financial situation by pounding on the people least able to bear said pounding (despite the fact that his on-line bio claims that the budget was balanced by Albertans "from all walks of life"; that's patently not true). There's also something a bit disturbing about the fact that he's been manoeuvring for policial power for so long.

  • Is He Likely To Pick Fights With Homeless People?: No, which is only fair given that his policies put a good number of them on the streets to begin with...

  • How are his chances?: Right now, he's the odds-on favourite, and it would be stunning if he didn't at least make it to a second ballot. He's really the only candidate with a chance to win on the first ballot, and unless Ted Morton finds a lot more support in these last few days, Dinning will be the next Premier of the province.

And, moving right along,

Dave Hancock

  • Who He?: Former Tory cabinet minister in Alberta, holding major portfolios such as Advanced Education. He's also been Government House Leader recently.

  • Why Should Progressives Support Him?: Along with Gary MacPherson, he's one of the only guys in this race who can actually be described as "progressive." He was a decent Advanced Education minister, and has done some good things in working against domestic violence. He's quite strong on environmental issues, and at a recent candidates' forum actually had the guts to call out Ted Morton and Lyle Oberg over their bloodthirsty, hang-'em-high rhetoric concerning youth justice.

  • Why Should We Not?: Very few reasons. He does come across as too confrontational sometimes (although on occasion that's been a welcome trait - see above), and he's sounded silly recently while accusing other candidates of trying to undercut his campaign.

  • Is He Likely To Pick Fights With Homeless People?: Not even slightly.

  • How are his chances?: Unfortunately very slim. He just doesn't have the support to get by Jim Dinning, Ted Morton, and Mark Norris (and maybe even Lyle Oberg).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Another Day, Another Tory Leadership Candidate

Victor Doerksen

  • Who He?: Long-time MLA, former Minister of Innovation and Science. Primarily known for his attempt to have Of Mice And Men banned from schools on the grounds that too many characters in the book use the Lord's name in vain.

  • Why Should Progressives Support Him?: Despite his reputation as a fundy nut-case, he's got some interesting and even progressive ideas about child-raising and family finances in general.

  • Why Should We Not?: Well, the fact that he demanded the banning of a work of literature is a problem. Also the fact that he seems bizarrely un-motivated; even Ralph Klein, who'd been his boss for more than a decade, expressed shock when Doerksen actually threw his hat into the ring.

  • Is He Likely To Pick Fights With Homeless People?: Only the ones who read Steinbeck.

  • How are his chances?: Not a chance in Hell. The people who don't remember him unkindly for the book-banning thing are all supporting Ted Morton.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Friday Archaeology Blogging!! A Day Late!! As Usual!!

A Roman merchant ship.

So the archaeological world, at least that part of it which is interested in the Romans, is pretty much agog these days over this:

Shipwreck of first-century vessel a ‘dazzling find’
November 14 2006

Marine archaeologists in Spain said yesterday that the shipwreck of a first-century vessel carrying delicacies to the richest palates of the Roman Empire had proved to be a dazzling find, with bones still nestling inside two-handled clay jars of fish sauce.

Ah yes, "fish sauce." Garum, as it was known in Latin, was one of the most popular Roman condiments, and it's hardly surprising to find it being shipped around in bulk. Should you wish to emulate the Romans, and concoct your own batch of authentic Roman garum, here are the rough instructions:

  1. Place, in a large container, fatty fish (either whole or in large pieces) and a number of herbs and spices, including copious amounts of salt.
  2. Seal the container tightly, and place it out in the sun.
  3. Go away, and find something else to do for a week, while the fish is fermenting.
  4. For three weeks, stir the concoction daily, until it has achieved a liquid state.
  5. Yum!

The above recipe is derived from a work on herblore by one Gargilius Martialis, an obscure 3rd-century A.D. Roman writer. A far better-known Roman chef was Apicius, although who he was, precisely is unclear. Recipes attributed to him were collected in late antiquity, and a number of manuscripts bearing them have survived.

The Romans did indeed have interesting culinary tastes, although the "Cena Trimalchionis", the elaborate dinner described by Apuleius in his work "The Golden Ass," is probably an exaggeration. Probably the most famous "weird" food of the Romans was the dormouse, which was eaten stuffed or dipped in honey and considered a great delicacy. The dormice themselves were raced in large terracotta jars called "gliraria" (singular "glirarium"). These vessels were perforated, and had an inclined ramp built on the inside to allow the dormice to move about and be fed.

A glirarium from Pompeii

Dormice were very much considered luxury food, and there was great concern about their effects on Roman moral character, to the point that sumptuary legislation was passed in 115 B.C. making the consumption of dormice illegal. However, this particular law was about as effective as most sumptuary legislation, and dormice continued to vanish down Roman gullets throughout most of the history of the Empire.

Anyway, actual work beckons, so that will be all for this week's Friday Archaeology Blogging. Also, I'm all hungry now for some reason... More political stuff tomorrow!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Continuing On With The Provincial Leadership Candidates!

Gary McPherson

  • Who He?: Local community leader, heavily involved in community associations (particularly sports-related) and disability-related issues.

  • Why Should Progressives Support Him?: He's probably the most progressive candidate of the bunch, although that really isn't saying much. For someone portrayed as a "one-issue" candidate, he's got a fairly decent grasp of the issues, at least as far as one can tell (see below).

  • Why Should We Not?: There aren't really too many reasons not to support Gary McPherson, although his lack of experience in politics may raise some red flags (he's never been elected, although he's served on a number of government committees). The "one-issue" thing is dogging him a bit as well, and he could afford to be much more specific in terms of exactly what his plans for Alberta are.

  • Is He Likely To Pick Fights With Homeless People?: No. I think a Gary McPherson premiership would be fairly free of that sort of tomfoolery.

  • How are his chances?: Zilch. He's got no real body of support, and pragmatism rather than anything else is going to send potential McPherson voters into other camps.

In other news, Friday Archaeology Blogging is to follow, although possibly not until tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Release The Hounds!!! (Provincial Edition)


Yeah, it's that time again, when we pick on people whose only crime (sometimes) is to aspire to political office. This time, we're going after the candidates to become the next Tory leader here in Alberta, filling the large, beer-stained boots belonging to Ralph Klein. Over the next few days, we'll be picking on the various contenders to be our next premier. Let's start with, oh, Ed Stelmach.

Ed Stelmach

  • Who He?: Longtime Tory provincial cabinet minister. Not known for anything, good or bad, in particular.

  • Why Should Progressives Support Him?: Good ideas on preserving wetlands and other sundry environmental matters. Or, at least he's making the right noises in that direction.

  • Why Should We Not?: Dangerously vague on a number of issues (i.e. Arts, homelessness), which leads one to suspect that he actually intends to pretty much ignore them. Is trying to portray himself as "tough on crime", without having any notions about how to reduce the crime rate. Wants to build more prisons.

  • Is He Likely To Pick Fights With Homeless People?: Not really, although it's a bit hard to tell.

  • How are his chances?: Slim. There nothing that really sets him apart from the others, and he'll be happy to make to a second ballot.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Yay, Us!

Oi! Thump! just rolled over 10,000 hits (at least since I put the counter in). Much thanks to everyone who's ever looked at this page!
A Remembrance Day Note

I saw this go by yesterday, and I, personally, think it's a good idea. I'm old enough to remember when there were enough WWI veterans left to make up a considerable part of the Remembrance Day parades even just in Edmonton, and it's sad to think that there are only three of them left in the entire country.

Petition calling for state funeral for WWI veteran gaining steam
Last Updated: Friday, November 10, 2006 | 12:49 PM ET
CBC News

An online petition calling for a state funeral for the last veteran of the First World War passed the 43,000-signature mark Friday and is rising by the hour, organizers said.

The actual petition is here. In the meantime:

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Yeah, yeah, I know...

Have you ever noticed that Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, and other cinematic archaeologists have very few adventures that deal with ancient Roman relics? My own theory about this is that the Romans do not, in general, possess that elusive air of mystery that is enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, and others. For one thing, one of the Romans' main accomplishments was an efficient bureaucracy, and Indiana Jones Successfully Figures Out The Cost Of Olive Oil In 4th-Century A.D. Gaul is not likely to bring the box-office dollars rolling in. However, there are darkly mysterious things associated with the Romans, and this here is one of them:

That, in fact, is the underside of this (click the image for a larger version:

That is a thing called the "Lapis Niger" (literally, "Black Stone"), an enormous slab of black marble placed overtop of a very old altar and the inscribed stone block in the top picture above. The Lapis Niger is located, as the bottom picture indicates, right in the middle of a main street running through the middle of the Roman Forum. What it is, precisely, is a matter of conjecture, although the Romans seem to have believed that it marked the spot where the city's legendary founder Romulus died. The inscription on the stone block is the oldest known piece of inscribed Latin, and it contains both a curse and a threat of legal sanction against anyone messing with the site. The inscription has been reconstructed and translated as follows:

Whosoever defiles this spot, let him be forfeit to the shades of the underworld, and whosoever contaminates this spot with refuse, it is right for the king after due process of law, to confiscate his property. Whatsoever persons the king shall discover passing on this road, let him order the summoner to seize their draft animals by the reins, that they may turn out of the road forthwith and take the proper detour. Whosoever persists in traveling this road, and fails to take the proper detour, by due process of law let him be sold to the highest bidder.

Note that the inscription refers to a "king." The last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, is believed to have been overthrown in a coup d'├ętat in 510 B.C., which gives some idea of how ancient the Lapis Niger must be.

The Romans did like curses. Typically, curses and similar supplications to the gods were scratched onto lead sheets and and buried or hurled into sacred springs, from which a great number of them have been recovered. The subject matter of these "curse tablets" tends to be fairly ferocious; the tablet pictured below has been translated as follows:

"Biccus gives Mercury whatever he has lost (that the thief), whether man or male (sic), may not urinate nor defecate nor speak nor sleep nor stay awake nor [have] well-being or health, unless he bring (it) in the temple of Mercury; nor gain consciousness (sic) of (it) unless with my intervention."

Another ancient Roman got extraordinarily specific with his or her request for vengeance against one Ticene:

"Spirits of the underworld, I consecrate and hand over to you, if you have any power, Ticene of Carisius. Whatever she does, may it all turn out wrong. Spirits of the netherworld, I consecrate to you her limbs, her complexion, her figure, her head, her hair, her shadow, her brain, her forehead, her eyebrows, her mouth, her nose, her chin, her cheeks, her lips, her speech, her breath, her neck, her liver, her shoulders, her heart, her lungs, her intestines, her stomach, her arms, her fingers, her hands, her navel, her entrails, her thighs, her knees, her calves, her heels, her soles, her toes. Spirits of the netherworld, if I see her wasting away, I swear that I will be delighted to offer a sacrifice to you every year."

Curses were also invoked in sporting contexts, as a tablet from North Africa shows. I was unable to find a picture of this one, but it has been translated as follows:

"I charge you demon, whoever you are, and demand of you from this hour, from this day, from this moment that you torture the horses of the Greens and Whites. Kill them! The charioteers Glarus and Felix and Primulus and Romanus, kill them! Crash them! Leave no breath in them! I charge you by him who has release you from the bonds of time, the god of the sea and the air, Iao Iasdao. Oorio aeia!"

And, as one might imagine, there are any number of curses directed at romantic rivals, the following being one of my favourites, if only for its simplicity:

May he who has stolen Vilbia from me become as liquid as water...

And, speaking of ancient Roman sexual matters, I noted this a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to mention it:

Pompeii's erotic lair reopens its doors

THE "wolves' lair" — ancient Pompeii's biggest, best-planned and most richly decorated brothel — has reopened to tourists after extensive restoration.

The lupanar at Pompeii is quite famous, particularly for the pictures, each showing a different sexual act in progress, located over the doors of each of the building's small bedrooms. On my very first visit to Pompeii, many years ago, and group of friends and I set off to find the brothel, only to discover that it was, inevitably, closed for restoration. So... we tracked down a site guard, some money changed hands, and we were allowed in to admire the artwork. It is, actually, quite spectacular, although the brothel itself must have been unbelievably squalid when it was actually in operation: dark, crowded, and not allowing much in the way of privacy. Anyway, I leave you with one of the infamous pictures:

Happy Saturday!

There's a Friday Archaeology Blogging in the oven; in the meantime, watch a Rancid video:

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Two For Two

Democrats seal US Senate victory

Republican George Allen has admitted defeat in the Virginia race for the US Senate, sealing Democratic mid-term victories in both houses of Congress.

I do not think that the wingnuts are going to be very happy with George Allen, and this has probably killed any chance he ever had of being POTUS.

So, um, Harper's Dark Overlord is kind of out there on his own, at this point (apart from Uncle Dick and That Woman That Peter Mackay Was Slobbering Over The Last Time She Was In Canada). Be interesting to see how our PM handles it, particularly if the opposition parties start smelling fear (well, more fear than usual from the Conservatives), which just might be a possibility if these polls are accurate. One thing is certain; he's going to have to choose whether he plays ball with the White House or with Congress and The Senate on matters relating to both our countries.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Well Done, Folks

Rumsfeld gone. Santorum gone. Allen politically crippled, probably. A solid Democratic majority in Congress. Even if the Dems don't end up holding the Senate majority, it's still a pretty good result, as long as they use their Congressional majority to put the brakes on King George in a big way. Screw bipartisanship, and bring on the subpoenas! So, well done to our friends to the south for finally, finally, hitting back against those assholes, and let the good work continue!

More gloating as events warrant...

Friday, November 03, 2006

In Other News...

Harper Valley has thrown off the shackles of Blogger, and fled over to Wordpress! Update thy links.

Friday Archaeology Blogging with extra neandertals!

So here's the deal, folks. I was going to do something Roman today, but I'm sicker than two dogs, so this is going to be a fairly feeble effort. I thought I'd simply update the recent Friday Archaeology Blogging on neandertals, since there have been a coupleo of interesting discoveries since I posted it:

More human-Neandertal mixing evidence uncovered
By: Washington University in St. Louis
Published: Nov 3, 2006 at 07:24

A reexamination of ancient human bones from Romania reveals more evidence that humans and Neandertals interbred.
The team says that the mixture of human and Neandertal features indicates that there was a complicated reproductive scenario as humans and Neandertals mixed, and that the hypothesis that the Neandertals were simply replaced should be abandoned.

No real surprise here, and there's also this article out of China:

Modern humans interbred with Neanderthals

BEIJING, Nov. 2 (Xinhuanet) -- A new study reveals that when modern humans met Neanderthals the two species viewed each other as "socially appropriate mates."

Perhaps it's the head cold talking, but I would imagine that early humanity's definition of a "socially appropriate mate" was pretty broad. Sort of like down at my local pub around about 11:30 on a Saturday night. Anyway, that's all for this week. Apologies, and hopefully next week will be better.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Opportunity Knocks

Cop who smacked hockey fan was doing his job: Crown
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | 3:13 PM MT
The Canadian Press

A police officer captured in photos smacking a handcuffed woman in the head at a street celebration after an Edmonton Oilers playoff game last spring should not be charged with assault, a prosecutor recommended Wednesday.

Calgary chief Crown prosecutor Gordon Wong said the Edmonton officer had little choice but to administer what is known as a "head stun" on Kristin Wilson during crowd control on Whyte Avenue on June 17.

Now, Paula Simons has already done sterling work commenting on this incident, and I have very little to add to what she's said about the implausibility of the "preventing a riot" explanation, etc. etc. However, she does make one comment that I'd like to elaborate on:

Wong's legal opinion isn't the last word on this sad affair. It's merely advice. Chief Boyd still has it within his power to lay criminal charges or launch internal discipline proceedings.

There it is really. So far, Mike Boyd has done a fairly decent job as Chief of Police here, certainly far better than what his immediate predecessors accomplished. The Kristin Wilson incident, however, represents his first, real chance to show that things are changing in the EPS. He cannot, for the sake of public confidence in his police force, simply hide behind the prosecutor's statement and do nothing about the incident itself. If he does that, it will be a clear sign that in fact nothing has changed, and that the thuggery and lack of accountability for which the force has gained an reputation are still un-dealt-with. If, however, he steps up and apologizes to Kristin Wilson, or does something to get her civil lawsuit satisfactorily and quickly resolved, or at the very least admits that the incident was handled unbelievably poorly, he will have begun to show Edmontonians that the EPS may be returning to the very high standard of policing we enjoyed in the early 1990s. The chief's next move is awaited with interest and trepidation.

P.S. A full description of what went on that night, including one of the now-infamous pictures, can be found here.
Shorter Licia Corbella

"Shame on the Tories for breaking their election promise not to tax income trusts. This move will hurt seniors and 'regular' Canadians, so Harper should have waited 'til he had a majority government before making it."