John Kenneth Galbraith

It is hard to say you are sad to hear of the passing of someone at 97 but it is the case with John Kenneth Galbraith. I have enjoyed a few of his many books and appreciate that he played a role in the economic modernization that helped bring the boom of wealth to North America that the combination of social welfare and well-regulated, well-taxed capitalist freedom has provided over the last 50 plus years. My favorite recollection of his observations was his description in the book Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went of the amazement of, I think, a US Secretary of the Treasury coming to the realization that banks, when loaning money, create the money loaned out of thin air as opposed to partaking of any sort of transfer away from A to give to B.

But it is his autobiographies that I would recommend first. In The Scotch he wrote about his south-west Ontario roots, including a great discription of his family’s weekly rushed clearing our of the local market town at the end of Saturday afternoon as the drunken brawls of less temperate but temporarily funded neighbouring farmers began pouring out into the streets. In another autobiography, I remember him describing the work he did as a economist for the US Navy after WWII figuring out the effect of Allied bombing on German industry as well as seeking out the basis for the Nazi war machine. He was quite shocked to learn there was no machine, that the Nazis refused to run factories on more than one eight-hour shift a day or employ women in them due to their puritanical belief in their “traditional family”.

Even if your economics are mere faith-based contrarianism, you may try to resist but should not as you will find the bright quality of his mind reflected in the writing nonetheless, the sort of mind which, when asked as an election night pundit at 7 pm who would win replied ask me at 11 pm and was happily never asked back to be an election night pundit.

Friday?…what do I do on Fridays?…hmmm

Friday. The last Friday of April as a matter of fact. I always run into May
with as much surprise as despiration as when March arrives. The magnolias are
coming into bloom here. Saw “mag-noooo-lias” like one of those Bugs Bunny
southern-gent-in-white-suit characters. Can’t do that in March. No sir.

  • Bye bye aggregation. Last summer, I was getting around 92% of visits through
    RSS. Now it is down to 76%. Comment spam is to blame I figure. Plus who the hell
    wants to read 250 feeds a day. I got an email from a pal asking me about the
    spam torrent on my comments but I had to tell him I never noticed as this blog’s
    format hides them from the front page pretty well automatically except that they
    show up on RSS. So for you aggregation readers, sorry. But there’s not much you
    can do given aggregation is going the way of usenet.

    Update: should this
    come to pass, kiss email goodbye, too.

  • Baseball is a game of failure and the Red Soxs are doing a good job the last
    week or so of proving that. Having the bazillion channel package just makes the
    down times worse – leaving me clicking back to find out that is it 0-6, 2-9,
    . But it brings perspective to my hollow shell of an inner life, right?
    That is why I follow them. Must be.

  • I am thinking of throwing my hat into the ring for the Liberal leadership
    race. Every single person in the country appears to be doing it so why not me?
    It is a largely uninspiring bunch. I am still backing Iggy from a distance but
    really only because I can call him Iggy. El Tigre makes a fairly good
    point about the vision-ettes
    of the Dryden and Kennedy candidacies
    but I think Harper harkening to
    anything other than devolution is a bit off. No, it is all about planning the
    new social engineering of one localizing sort or another these days. Really, it
    is all about blandification as far as I see as so much as been shifted away from
    the Feds that they really have a small amount of effect on day to day life. You
    can’t harken back to the pre-60s without planning to reinstate the massive
    Federal presence as we were then a proud nation of the post office and the train
    system, bureaucracies like Health and Welfare Canada and the St. Lawrence
    Seaway. We always have been a nation of inspectors and the inspected. There has
    been and will be no great Canadian vision without the “national project” of one
    sort or another. Unless someone comes up with one, don’t expect any undoing of
    Grant’s Lament for A

  • Chiz is my pal. Reading this, I feel very badly
    for Chiz as Chiz is a really good guy.


I have always considered the desire to firmly fix the future – to seek certainty in the uncertain flux of what is to be – a sign of some sort of weakmindedness, hubris over the temporal. No wonder, then, that the news of the day, a cap on trade in lumber to the US and set dates for Federal elections has assured me once again that we now live in Simpleton.

The second is being proposed for reasons antithetical, to avoid early elections. Well, having had two Federal elections in the last two years and no one having lost an eye I simply do not see the reason. We started having maximum terms between votes to assure that we got a vote sooner or later. I like voting. If we voted more I would be happy as that is when I get to be involved in the process. Fixed election dates only stop idiots with perceived leads from getting the boot when they dare to go to the pools early. Serves them right. Leave me and my boot that pleasure.

First of all, why would we think that maxing out the amount that we can sell to anyone? We are a nation of exporters of raw goods, all vanities otherwise aside. What good comes of shutting down a resource market to get a payback of what was improperly taken by a buyer? We aren’t needy. Especially as this country is experiencing a sustained economic boom despite the unfair imposition of that duty. Especially when the amount we are to receive is about half to be blown on the beer and popcorn money. Chicken feed in the big picture. It would seem that economically we are able to deal from a position of strength as a nation but the new negotiators weren’t told.

There. Believe it or not, I lack faith in the new mid-minor masters based on the evidence of their deeds. Who’d believe it? Sooner or later I will put that second string on the banjo…I suppose.

Update: Hey, they listened to the complaints. That’s good.

Knut Goes To Italy

…L’ultima creazione di Renzo…

The city of Parma is quite sleepy on this spring afternoon. Actually, so am I, I got up at half past in the morning to get there, but that is not the point. The bus stop in front of the train station is largely deserted, too, but a young man from Ghana helps me to find the right platform. The 02:12 bus is not appearing, and not the 02:20, either. I give up and walk across to the taxi stand, and a taxi driver quotes a rate that is quite acceptable for a 20 minute ride, so I get in.

My destination is the Panil Brewery, located in the countryside to the south of Parma, where the flat landscape of the Po plain gives way to small hills. It is a pleasant drive. The poppies are already in bloom at the roadside, and the leaves are a dozen shades of green. The fields smells of manure from the cows and sheep that produce the Parmesan and Parma ham. It turns out that this is a holiday, so that is the reason for the bus not turning up. On Liberation day most things shut down (and a fair portion of the population had turned out to heckle the mayor, according to reports). And I will not go into who they were liberated from. The Italians?

The brewery is in the countryside within view of the picturesque castle of Torrechiara. It sits in an idyllic setting with a few tables outside the shop, a dozen hens of various colours walking feely around the premises. The place is quite deserted when I arrive, although the doors are open. In addition to the brewing, they also make wine from grapes from the area, which I take note of trying out another time.

After some time spent walking around calling out for assistance, I get help from Aba, a lady fluent in English. She tells me that the brewery is run by her sister and her husband, but that they are not around at the moment. She presents the range of beers they have – very much inspired by Belgian styles. There is a pilsener, a blonde ale and a brown ale, and there is a stout in the making which is not bottled yet. The most interesting beers in the range, however, are two ales aged in oak barrels and then again fermented in the bottle – triple fermented. One of them is a sour version of their Barriquée ale, which I have tasted before, the other is the September ale, which is brewed with grape juice blended in – a sort of beer/wine hybrid. She tells me that these beers are mainly for export and sale directly from the brewery, the locals tend to find them too extreme!

I buy as many bottles I manage to carry with me, and I really look forward to trying them out. While I wait for my transport back to town I notice a small restaurant around the corner. The next time I will probably make a day trip out of it and make some time to see the castle, too!

[Ed.: Check here for the Beer Advocate’s take on these brews. Check here for more of Knut’s travels. Click here for Knut’s own blog.]

Is Twisted Thistle An IPA?

twisted1I picked up this beer while on the road and I was immediately in a fix, dealing with cultural confusion. As a son of Scots I know that Belhaven is a fine and reputable brewer of Scots ales bought last year by Greene King… yet I know IPA is not a Scots style. I have discussed this before in relation to Deuchars IPA but this beer – or more particularly the comparison between the two beers makes their labelling as IPAs a wee bit problematic.

Look – here is what I thought about Twisted Thistle. When I had it the other night I wrote:

Caramel ale under light tan foam and a thick cling and ring. A very fruity ale, berry fruity but mainly crusty sweet country loaf of bread. Rich with some smokiness and creamy yeast. Then it opens into light dry fruit apple and raisin with a note of honey. Grapefruity hops balance but in a recessed position, a subordinate role. Definitely more like a pale ale in the zzap-tastic north-east US scale. But richer.

Then note what I concluded about Deuchars in October 2004, a year and a half ago:

You can see they are really different ales, Deuchars being is light and crisp while the Belhaven IPA was to my mind more like a Bombardier with a lighter touch on the same heavy elements, especially the dry fruit characteristics – dry apples and light raisin rather than, say, figs and dates but still dry fruit.

Don’t get me wrong. Both are good bevvies you should try. My point is IPA is becoming a very broad term, so broad I am finding it a little meaningless as an indicator of what I will find when I pour the bottle. Terms like “stout” and “mild” or “dubbel” do not generally pose this problem for the thoughtful buyer facing a new beer. It reminds me a bit of white wine and the labeling of them according to grape varieties which became popular in the early 1990s. People then came to say they like Chardonnay or Merlot but then were surprised when this Chardonnay or that Merlot was nothing like the wine they could they recognized. Like with IPA, too much is due to the actual wine making techniques for the comfort of those wine drinkers relying on the label for guidance. Key terms then become the opposite of what they were meant to be – they come to deter rather than attract.

So try Twisted Thistle. It is not a Scots style /80 or wee heavy or an IPA or like Deuchars IPA. But it is really really pleasant.

Sports Pool 2006 Points Table

I have created a table for points for the pool and another complete table for all picks data. The data one needs me dropping in more of the picks so will take a little more time but it has the NHL picks in now. Make sure I have it right – even though this may be ultimately useless. And, yes, all manual so this year we will not have running totals.

And if anyone can figure out why there is this gap in between the text and the table please let me know…Got it! Just some unnecessary break tags at a few points.

Hans 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rob 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scott 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ranald 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
CM 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Don 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Matt 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Marcia 0

0 0 0 0 0 0

Belgium: Goudenband, Brouwerij Liefmans, Oudenaarde

goudenLight tan foam over fairly lively chestnut ale, this Flemish oud bruin has a tangy vinegary sweet aroma. This beer is far less sharp than my previous Flemish experiences of this sort from Rodenbach Grand Cru yet bigger than the other Flem I have known Petrus Oud Bruin. There is a creaminess with all the acidity that is really surprising. “Vineous” may work with other examples of this style but this one is clearly ale, even if quite tart. If you go with it, it is also quaffable…maybe if you transpose from fruit juice as it is somewhere between granny smith apple and pineapple juice just in terms of tartness. But, with all that, there is also cherry and oak and vanilla and maybe the best Pepsi you have ever had as well as even dried fruit like prune and fig and molasses. Yes, as complex and balanced as a fine wine if you need to compare.

This is perhaps the best chance you will have to taste what a medieval ale was like. $4.95 for a 330 ml at the LCBO. Try one and a half in a hefeweizen glass if you can. BAers generally on board.

Now Returning You To Your Normal Programming

I’m still trying to think about what to do with this place. I thought about it a lot on the trip which is sort of odd but I spend a lot of my time writing away here and reading what you leave it is respectful I think to have a think. Despite the numbers, I think blogging is way past the stale date and, if activity on many of my favorites from when I started writing is anything to go by, so do a lot of other bloggers. Yet it still chugs on, eating up the work day, proving once again that the greatest product of time-saving devices will always be more slackery.

One think that is nice to see is the demise of the A-list. Except among techie geeks, there is not many now running to read what X or Y said about something as if they have special authority on a subject. Many of them have actually been assimilated in to the grown-up real money paying media. The rest have been gently, quietly discredited and no longer hold conventions about themselves. Similarly, the idea of corporate blogging has died a natural death. Just as there is no new law and definitely no new economy, no new race of men of enterprise has arisen willing to share business secrets openly, risking discrediting the firm through describing the downside. Nothing has really changed and that is good. While we hear words about business reaching out to customers in real time and providing an on demand product it is all the blah of IBM commercials and, when stripped, is no different than the purchase of a can on beans at the store. Note again as well that none of you buy your cans of beans anywhere but at the store. Because you like going to the store where the people are. You like to have a good look at the can first.

No, it has resolved itself nicely into a more genial hobby, sort of like group penpalsmanship. This is good. People should speak freely with each other in a medium that allows for speedy cross-referencing from an archive as well as easy participation from anyone interested. Even if you make a little money on the side, as I am happy to do now, no one has illusions anymore that there is a private career around the corner. I used to question those who spoke about making community but now I think that that is one of the few claims about blogging from, say, 2002 that has actually stuck. People like to chat about stuff. That is why parties have not stopped.

But it is not a collaborative community. This is something that has disappointed me. People really do not use blogs to write something together, to figure a problem out collectively. These spaces are only like light bulbs. Certainly light bulbs more than lighthouses, let alone factories. Your town is full of people relying on 27 cent light bulbs to get ahead in their day to day lives. But no one thinks it is a miracle anymore and few devise ways to make their millions off of them.