TNT rule. Well, at least they rule over Iceland. Dwight Yorke (leaping right) but not seven guys called Desmond and a bunch of others called Dennis now heads to Sydney for the A-league final.

I reiterate. I will change my name to Clive Desmond…or Desmond Clive…if they win the World Cup. Note: new website for the team…or the Department of Tourism and the team.

Last Day Of Winter

Today is really the last day of winter. It is the last day like Labour Day is the last day of summer. The weather is not necessarily going to tell you but its days are numbered even with the sharp spell we face for a few days.

The days lengthen. Somewhere in the month that begins tomorrow there will be a day that will be shorts weather and there will be more green around the foundations of buildings. The day after tomorrow the Red Sox play the Twins in the beginning of the graprefruit league. Tomorrow, February will be eleven months away.

Soon No More Home And Garden TV

As the new ditigal TV world starts to nudge above the horizon, it is good to see the CTRC do something useful short of the dream of its own extinguishment. As some point before I leave this mortal coil, I may be able to buy cable TV without the 34 channels I never never never watch:

As the industry shifts from analog to digital transmission, which provides a high-definition TV signal through a set-top box, cable companies have sought to sell channels individually. However, in a show of support for analog cable networks concerned that their audiences may plunge, the CRTC said the tiered system must be kept in place on digital cable until 2013. If cable providers have transferred more than 85 per cent of their subscribers to digital after 2010, that system can be dropped. The tiers have often frustrated consumers who would like certain stations but do not want to be pay for those they don’t want…While Canadian regulators are making the shift from analog to digital cable over a broader period of time, the U.S. government has more aggressive plans, setting a Feb. 17, 2009, deadline to end analog TV broadcasts.

The next step of course is allowing any channel broadcast anywhere in the world to be available to me. All I want is the right to watch TV from India or Fiji as I have been able to listen to their radio through the miracle of the international broadcast bands of shortwave radio. You can tell by my internationalist style around these parts.

The Five Dollar Station

One of the reasons radio is so good is radio is extremely cheap:

The transmission equipment, costing just over $1, may be the cheapest in the world. But the local people definitely love it. On a balmy morning in India’s northern state of Bihar, young Raghav Mahato gets ready to fire up his home-grown FM radio station. Thousands of villagers, living in a 20km (12 miles) radius of Raghav’s small repair shop and radio station in Mansoorpur village in Vaishali district, tune their $5 radio sets to catch their favourite station.

The real problem radio (and broadcast TV) faces is there are only so many spots on the dial. There is already talk in the US about how switching to digital TV is going cost homeowners masses of money to replace perfectly good TV sets but it is moving ahead in under 3 years:

Manufacturers, broadcasters, cable and satellite companies and accessory developers are rushing to complete the transition to digital high definition before Feb. 17, 2009, the date the U.S. government has set for termination of all analog broadcasts. In January 2008, about a year before the HDTV transition takes place, the analog channels will be auctioned to the highest bidders. Proceeds from the sales are expected to top $10 billion, with $7.3 billion going to the U.S. Treasury. For those who haven’t bought an HDTV set by the 2009 deadline, the government plans to provide $1.5 billion in subsidies to owners of older sets for converter boxes that will transform the digital signals to analog.

All to avoid a crackle or a shadow on the screen and maybe squeeze more onto the broadcast band. But it is to be seen whether the public reception of digital TV will be the same as digital radio. If over the next three years the 20 year promise of convergence gets a little more traction, there may be a significant sector who won’t make the leap. Interesting to note that my favorite media source these days runs on something like 2 bucks a year per listener. Not that far off young Raghav Mahato’s business model.

What To Do, Ralph?

What to do when your surplus reaches 10 billion? If it is in Federal coffers everyone says it’s not government money – give it to me, pay the debt, do this, do that. But when it is in Alberta’s hands it is not ours. It doesn’t really seem to be Albertans given the lack of public use the windfall from we buyers of fuel. Given that the price will only keep going up and given there is anywhere from a 50 to 200 year supply needing digging up…what to do with it all? Harper appears intent on removing that wealth from the equalization formula, too, while others foot the bill. Maybe they could create the Arctic navy.

String Fever

The Rukster has reminded me of my early steps into bluegrass. I wrote a brief summary of my place in my pickin’ and grinnin’ edjification:

I am following a similar path in bluegrass discovery, Peter, and I can heartily recommend String Fever on NCPR Thursdays 4 to 6 your time. It’s a local show on my local NPR station with an excellent name which it has inspired me to declare 2006 the year of the mandolin, but only if I learn ten licks on the guitar. All very diddly-diddly. Perhaps you now need to pick yourself a bluegrass name like “Slim” or “Del” if only to keep it private in your own thoughts.

I daydream now of mandolins and imagine myself like these folk in a future I am not certain can be attained. The other day I learned of the existence of the mandocellos and other points on the mandolin sliding scale. I have bought books of tablature with titles like Hot Licks for Bluegrass Guitar. I have a plan. I will go to Old Forge on the way home from Easter in Portland. I will pick up a mandolin and play a lick and say “that is one sweet mandolin” and I will buy it. How better to welcome my 43rd year later that week.

This all, however, may go off the rails as I learned last evening that I am going to see Queen in Toronto in three weeks with the brothers to renew our periodic rocking out as with Elvis Costello in July 2003 and the Pixies in November 2004.

#19 – Delighted I’m Sure

One might be forgiven for thinking that, all things considered, given the dearth of plausible candidates for the primus inter pares (or however the hell you spell it) spot in the Party, they might have given Iggy something which might have brought him to the attention of the Speaker more than once every six months.

It is not every day that we manage to find a bona fide intellectual – who published actual books rather than Pierre’s wee collection of pensees on Federalism culled from yesterday’s fish wrap – dumb enough to want to lead the party through the valley of debt to reach the delights of office a decade from now.

The Acting Leaderine is, I suspect, just a little envious. Not that he himself is a stranger to the book writing biz; but his only sales have been to captive law students looking to break the cycle of Wills and Trusts with the p&v of International Law. Actual people have bought, in rather satisfactory numbers, Iggy’s books.

Plus, and one cannot discount this, he has been an actual media star (I trust no one has mentioned that in Canada, so long as you have not actually written any books, that puts you in line to be GG not PM). One would think that the Leaderine would have remembered all this.

One might go further and point out that Slats, for all his prowess on the international hockey sheet – and his own rather popular books – is unlikely to be able to identify any foreign nation where hockey is not actually a part of the national religion. Iggy, on the other hand, has been almost Chatwinesque in his desire to visit the most maggot infested corners of this funny old world. He – and this no doubt knots the knickers of the Leaderine – actually has a clue and the clue is not the anti-American “personal security” cant which the Unworthy utters at such ponderous length from his Pacific perch.

I’m off for a quick dinner with Marie Jose…Bunny is in the Desert for the week. Hope she has fun – I know I will.

How Odd, Leah

How odd:

My own problem with the blogosphere is not that it’s selling out to the mainstream, but that most of it is spectacularly boring. The dominant quality is tedium: writers without editors, fact-checkers or paying subscribers to keep them in check. As Butterworth succinctly puts it: “If the pornography of opinion doesn’t leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium.”

Given that I basically agree with that quotation (despite its horrendous, overly ripened condition) as recent discussions will confirm, I was saddened by the reference to David Eddie, author of the excellent Chump Change of about a decade ago:

But this doesn’t hold up in all cases. Take my friend and peer David Eddie. A Toronto-based novelist, journalist and screenwriter, Eddie maintains a blog at even though he invariably has several other professional writing projects on the go. When I ask him (slightly incredulously) why on Earth he would bother to write down his opinions for free, he shrugs. “It’s a good way to limber up. You get up in the morning, fire up a blog, write the thing in 15 minutes and then you know what’s on your mind. I think it was Nabokov who said, ‘How do I know what’s on my mind until I write it down?’ “

Unfortunately, the fact checkers failed this time to note that Mr. Eddie’s blog has been dead since Monday, October 17, 2005. What is the word for the status of one’s limber if not upped for four months?

Never mind. Soon it will be again as retro hip to say you blog as it is now to say they are worthless.