Archives : September 2003

2003 September 3

News roundup

It's been long enough since I've posted that I'm starting to feel like I have to write something really big to catch up on it all, and that prospect is becoming daunting enough to stop me from writing anything. Which is stupid. So here's a mini-roundup of news items from the past day or two that seem to deserve pointers. Ease myself back into the habit of writing, and get to my personal updates shortly.

In case you still thought rebuilding Iraq was going to be just like Germany and Japan, Daniel Benjamin in Slate points out:

It's hard to understand exactly what Rumsfeld was saying, but if he meant that the Nazi resisters killed Americans after the surrender, this would be news. ... the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germany—and Japan, Haiti, and the two Balkan cases—was zero.

Bruce Rolston on what what bringing "multinational reinforcements" into Iraq really means:

That just leaves India as the one country that could conceivably provide sufficient troops to make a dent in the Americans' coming February-April replacement delta. It hasn't been said enough that whenever people talk about going to the UN, or broadening the coalition, they really mean winning over the Lok Sabha. Trouble is, given their history of fighting and dying all over the Old World as British proxies in two world wars, they're probably one of the countries most sensitive about the whole loss-of-national-command thing.

He doesn't mention Canada as an option, but he's talked about us before: like Germany, we're completely committed to Afghanistan.

Riverbend takes a road trip across Baghdad:

The looting and killing of today has changed from the looting and killing in April. In April, it was quite random. Criminals were working alone. Now they’re more organized than the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) and the troops combined. No one works alone anymore- they’ve created gangs and armed militias. They pull up to houses in minivans and SUVs, armed with machineguns and sometimes grenades. They barge into the house and demand money and gold. If they don’t find enough, they abduct a child or female and ask for ransom. Sometimes the whole family is killed- sometimes only the male members of the family are killed.

For a while, the men in certain areas began arranging ‘lookouts’. They would gather, every 6 or 7 guys, in a street, armed with Klashnikovs, and watch out for the whole area. They would stop strange cars and ask them what family they were there to visit. Hundreds of looters were caught that way- we actually felt safe for a brief period. Then the American armored cars started patrolling the safer residential areas, ordering the men off the streets- telling them that if they were seen carrying a weapon, they would be treated as criminals.

She also has a good read on the joy of bringing American defense-contractor accounting to Iraq.

Salam Pax's family's house gets raided by American soldiers:

They came at around 12 midnight they were apparently supposed to do a silent entrance and surprise the criminal Ba’athi cell that was in my parents house, unfortunately for them our front gate does a fair amount of rattling so my brother heard that and opened the door and saw a couple of soldiers climbing on our high black front gate. When the silent entrance tactic failed they resorted to shouty entrance mode. So they shouted at him telling him that he should get down on his knees, which he did. He actually was trying to help them open the door, but whatever. Seconds later around 25 soldiers are in the house my brother, father and mother are outside sitting on the ground and in their asshole-ish ways refused to answer any questions about what was happening.

The point of these last entries is not that they prove in any way that the occupation will fail; they just provide graphic illustration for the slow-witted of why it sucks to live in an occupied country.

2003 September 5


Well, I am sad to annouce that I've given notice to my landlord in Boston, and will be moving to Toronto. I'm still not entirely sure this is the right decision, but I guess it's the one I'm going with.

The situation is:

  • To get a visa to start my business in the States, the INS requires me to show I've got a 'real and operating' enterprise, which is nearly impossible for me to prove. Usually for a startup they'll take things like signed leases and orders for inventory, but I don't actually have any of those things, and won't until January at least. (This is me getting bit by the flip side of having a business plan with low start-up costs.)
  • They require me to take all my available funds and put them into my company up front (well, what they really require is enough to show a substantial investment in the United States, but in my case that's all my available funds), which (a) creates an unnecessary taxable event, and (b) leaves me with nothing to live on, so I'd have to pay myself a salary out of the company, which I then have to pay income tax on. That is, I'd have to pay tax again on money that already belongs to me. That could amount to $500 a month, fairly easily.
  • And the E-2 application is generally a complete pain in the ass. I'm looking at at least forty or fifty pages of supporting documents.
If I had applied it would still have been October at least before I got a decision, and there's no way to be certain I'd have been approved even if I do all of the above. I seem to have one of those borderline visa-officer's-discretion cases, and I don't feel confident that the INS is giving anybody the benefit of the doubt these days. And I really don't want to hang around for another month or month and a half only to be told I have to leave anyway.

I feel like having come this far, there's no way I can let myself not carry through with the start-up plan, so moving back to Canada it is.

I'm returning to Boston next Thursday to pack up my things and so on, and then I'll take a U-haul to Toronto on the 29th. I'm bummed to have to leave -- there are a lot of you guys I'm going to miss. This is an 'indefinite' departure, but not for good if I can help it. Sooner or later either my business will be successful enough that I can expand into the American market, or it'll fail and I'll get a normal job again, or something. Feel free to vote for any candidates who advocate looser immigration rules.

I'm tentatively scheduling a house-cooling party for Saturday the 20th.

Happier news on how the whole project is coming along next time I post.

2003 September 10

No piece of the universe more fit for princes and kings

Monday night Bill got on my case again, like usual, about why I'm not moving back to Halifax. Only this time, I realized I no longer have a good answer. I could move back to Halifax, if I wanted to, now that I'm moving anyway. I'd need a different business plan than the one I've been working to, but then, that plan was designed when I thought I was carrying it out in Boston, and it needs to be revisited anyway.

I could move back to Halifax, if I wanted to. But I find myself strangely reluctant.

Don't get me wrong: I love Halifax. It's a great place, lots of life, beautiful setting, big enough to have culture but small enough to have affordable housing -- about the only real strike against it is the godawful sorry excuse for a Nova Scotia spring. My parents and one of my grandmothers live here, so they'd love to have me back in town, and I think I've had enough independence now that I could even handle that.

I've spent the past couple days trying to work out why I'm still hesitating, and I think the reason is this: I've changed a lot since I last lived in Halifax. I think I've grown; I've certainly become more confident, comfortable with risks, and I think also more big-city aggressive. I am half afraid that I've outgrown this city.

But then, my impression of the city is based on the people I knew when I lived here, and I was a different person then. It's entirely possible that, returning as an adult, I could build myself a very different social circle. It's not as if there's any lack of life in this town -- I was downtown this afternoon, and Spring Garden Rd was buzzing as much as Davis Square ever does, if not more.

So I don't know. I think I would like Toronto, but I have no particular attachment to the place, and it worries me to move somewhere where I don't know anyone. Even when I went to California I knew Dave and Dan but still had trouble making a social life; I'm not looking forward to starting again from scratch. On the other hand, do I really want to learn that I've outgrown my home town? I figure I have about a week at the most to make up my mind, because I've got to move out of my apartment in Somerville by the end of the month.

My title line, for those who don't recognize it (and I think this will be all the non-Maritimers) is from the folk tune "Song for the Mira":

Out on the Mira one warm afternoon
Old men go fishing with black line and spoon
And if they catch nothing they never complain
I wish I was with them again

Can you imagine a piece of the universe
More fit for princes and kings?
I'll give you ten of your cities
For Marion Bridge and the pleasure it brings
This would no doubt be the anthem of Nova Scotia, if "Farewell to Nova Scotia" didn't already hold that (unofficial) honour. Of course, given the subject of this entry, I'd probably be better off with a reference to "Barrett's Privateers", but I don't see a good line in there to grab.

The weather, meanwhile, has been absolutely gorgeous here: warm, sunny, and mostly dry. I've been out on the water most days, either in the little rowboat doing a lap end-to-end in the cove (about half a mile) or with my father in his new powerboat out in the harbour. Yesterday we went into the Northwest Arm past the Squadron, almost to the Dingle, and we've also been out to Portuguese Cove and across to the McNab's lighthouse. The views have stunningly beautiful -- the water a warm blue-almost-green you don't usually get in Nova Scotia, the sky clear turquoise, and in between bands of brown seaweed, beige granite, and deep green fir trees. When the weather cooperates, the scenery here can hold its own with any in the world, except possibly the fjords of Norway.

2003 September 12

Back in the States

I'm back. It feels weird this time. Usually I don't think much about crossing the border, but after so much time away, back in Canada and planning for staying, Boston looks a bit foreign again.

My head's in a confused place. I don't know what I'm thinking these days.

Beaver Pond

I haven't been totally idle while I've been away. I went camping for a couple days with my parents at Kejimkujik National Park and got in a couple good rides: from Jake's Landing out past Merrymakedge and Grafton Lake, down the Peskowesk Road to the Lower Mersey bridge, and then back to Jeremy's Bay. Then the next day I did it again, but in the other order -- I would have picked a different route, but Keji doesn't actually give many options for rides longer than an hour. It's probably one of the best places in the world to go canoeing, but it's not a cyclist's park, even though the steep short rolling hills are great fun to ride.

Other than that, my only real exercise was rowing in the cove -- I guess I went out half a dozen times. Good for my arms, but not really enough to maintain my endurance. I definitely felt more winded out there today than I would have been a month ago. But I didn't kill myself, either. More or less, I'm faster than anybody who doesn't have shiny pants, and slower than anyone who does.

Obviously, I need to get me some shiny pants.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/08/19 Peskowesk Road, Kejimkujik ~25 km ~2 hr ? km/h 669 km
2003/08/20 Peskowesk Road, Kejimkujik ~25 km ~2 hr ? km/h 694 km
2003/09/12 Minuteman to I-95 beaver pond 31.2 km 1:21:00 23.1 km/h 736 km

2003 September 13

Ancient smut

The Sumerians had a thing for lettuce, while the Hittites loved their horses. Also, Roman contraception.

Courtesy Teresa Nielsen-Hayden.

Arlington Centre

This was going to be a longer ride, but I discovered on rolling out that I was still saddlesore from yesterday. So I turned it into a sprint instead.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/05/28 Arlington Centre 7.7 km 19:03 24.3 km/h 744 km

Copyright Wars, Episode XXVII

Blame Canada: RIAA spokesperson Amanda Collins seemed unaware of the situation in Canada. "Our goal is deterrence. We are focused on uploaders in the US. Filing lawsuits against individuals making files available in the US."

Which will be a colossal waste of time because in Canada it is expressly legal to share music. If the RIAA were to somehow succeed in shutting down every "supernode" in America all this would do is transfer the traffic to the millions of file sharers in Canada.

I admit, I always thought the blank-media levy was obnoxious, but hey, it seems like it might have unexpected advantages. There is still the problem of fairly distributing the proceeds, of course.

2003 September 16

The limits of fake

I've been watching "Joe Schmo" on Spike (was: TNN), and find myself strangely addicted. It's a gimmick "reality" show that's trying to more-or-less do the "Truman Show" plan: there's this staged, absurd fake reality show where all the contestants are actors except for one, who thinks it's real. And so everything is scripted around this colossal practical joke, trying to string along Matt Gould (the Schmo) so he keeps believing it's all real.

The interesting thing about it isn't the plot, or the characters. For me, anyway, the interesting part is that the entire efforts of a Hollywood production company are devoted to creating a fake reality around Matt, and you can see them sweating bullets that their house of cards could crash down at any time. The actors have to improvise almost everything, of course, because Matt is blundering around in their scenes, and he's not playing by the script. They have to stay in character around the clock, day after day, and sometimes they get the hunted look in their eyes, like Matt is the Gestapo agent who's friendly-like questioning their cover stories. "Wisconsin! I thought you said you grew up in Florida!"

They could probably sweat less if they weren't trying to manipulate Matt into going along with anything in particular, but they are, and so they have to. It's interesting to see the limits of a classic Twilight Zone kind of premise poked at for real.

2003 September 18


I have finished packing my library. I have twenty boxes worth, not counting random paper like research notes and tax records. I'm glad I'm not paying by the pound to ship this time.

2003 September 21

Trader Joe's

Beautiful afternoon. I was going to ride farther, but ended up pushing myself too hard in the first half of the ride.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/09/21 Trader Joe's (Arlington Heights) 14.6 km 37:01 23.7 km/h 780 km

2003 September 22

Beaver Pond

I needed time to think, so I went out past I-95 to the beaver pond. It helped.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/09/22 I-95/beaver pond 30.1 km 1:22:45 21.8 km/h 811 km
Fall is in the air.

One hell of a party

Saturday was, as far as I'm concerned, damned near the perfect party. I had the best time, and am so glad you all could come.

I was completely unprepared for the number of people, one after another, who tried to talk me into staying. Jon and Amy in particular went beyond the call by offering me their guest room until I had things sorted out; also Molly, and Matt, and Elizabeth, and Sean, and Jin, and Jascha, and Fiona, and Connie, and Michael and Nomi and Lauren and Sarah. By the sixth time around, my explanations were starting to sound weak to me, too.

I didn't properly understand how many friends I had here. I'm terribly flattered.

I decided I had to move back to Canada because the INS had me too frustrated to maybe think straight. It is possible I've given up too easily, and ought to pony up the money, pay a lawyer, and do it right. I need to check again -- this time, at least, I'll be better prepared psychologically for the kinds of roadblocks I'll have to get through.

So maybe a somewhat revised/rescheduled Plan A is back on the table -- call it Plan A'. It depends on what the lawyer tells me. Updates posted when available.

2003 September 24

That loathing feeling

I remember this feeling. This is the feeling of writhing frustration I felt in August when I decided it couldn't be worth dealing with the INS.

Heart transplant

So on top of everything else going on this week, my computer started having hardware problems -- without warning, it would just shut down. No crash or sign of any software problem -- just off like I'd hit the Reset button. And then it wouldn't come back on until it had cooled down.

Annoying, but in the good way that allows me to feel clever, because I could diagnose it almost immediately -- the thing was overheating because the fan in my five-year-old power supply died.

Sort of recklessly (because power issues can really damage a machine), I've been continuing to use it for the past few days, with the case open to help with the cooling. Mostly I've been able to do what I needed to do and then shut down before the thing overheated. But now I've just taken the machine apart, unplugged and unscrewed the old power supply, chunked a new one in, and 15 minutes later everything seems to be working fine. Ha!

Enough other crap has gone wrong for me lately that I don't really seem to care that I'm tempting fate by bragging about this.

2003 September 26

Trader Joe's

I ran over a squirrel! Yerg. The thing tried to sprint across the path awfully close in front of me, but it was going to make it. It would have made it, if it hadn't stopped and tried to reverse right in front of my wheel. Whump, whump -- both wheels, right over it. Oddly, my reaction more than anything is: annoyed that it did something so dumb. I don't want to be involved in that kind of thing. But I don't think I killed it -- it was in good enough shape to tear off into the bushes before I could stop.

Meanwhile, I am in noticeably worse shape than I was a couple months ago.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/09/26 Trader Joe's (Arlington Heights) 14.7 km 39:44 22.2 km/h 834 km
That's three minutes off pace. Bleah.

2003 September 28

Hurricane Juan

My parents are going to get hit with a hurricane tonight, possibly even dead centre. Hurricane Juan is forecast to make landfall somewhere between Mahone Bay (south of Halifax) and Ecum Secum (north of Halifax) as a Category 1 storm. They don't get as far north as Halifax very often, maybe once every ten to fifteen years, and I personally have missed all of them, for one reason or another.

They live right on the coast, but Herring Cove is ridiculously sheltered anchorage, so we're not too worried about the 10-12 m (30-40') wave action forecast. But they're also forecasting a 1.5 m tidal surge on top of an already-high 1.7 m equinoctial tide, which may bring it above the deck of the dock my father spent most of the summer working on. That would probably float it, and thus wreck the foundations. Also, the wind could destroy their greenhouse/sunroom, if it comes from the wrong direction. It survived the last hurricane (1996), but that may have been luck.

Anyway, it's supposed to make landfall around 6pm tonight. I'm going to be keeping an eye on the news.

Update: (12:30 AM Mon) I just got a call from my mother. Their power is out, but the phone still works. Halifax is getting hammered -- first direct hit by a hurricane in forty-three years. She says they've lost the greenhouse, but it's too dark and stormy to see what's happened to the dock. It's hard to believe it's not getting wrecked, though. Meanwhile, in the city, both bridges are closed to traffic, with sustained 100-km/h winds; evacuation orders are in for Sambro, Laurencetown and Sheet Harbour; and there are rumours that the storm surge is up over the wharves of the Historic Properties and into Lower Water Street -- probable record high water levels in Halifax Harbour.

hurricane juan satellite image

You hear about this stuff happening in faraway places, but it's just pretty pictures on TV until it happens someplace you know. I wish I was there right now.

2003 September 29

Damage report: pending

Halifax media is full of the usual stories that follow a hurricane: two people killed by falling trees, a quarter of the province without power, state of emergency declared, no transit running, max wind gusts pegged at 143 km/h at the airport (which is well inland). But none mention places I'm personally familiar with.

The last I heard from my parents was at midnight last night. They'd already lost power, and now their phone seems to be out as well. But no reason to expect anything more than assorted property damage.