A time-honoured principle of Internet discourse is Godwin’s Law, which declares an argument lost the instant that the opponent resorts to a comparison to Hitler and/or the Holocaust.

Last week at the trial of Canadian Senator Mike Duffy the prosecuting attorney Mark Holmes attempted to badger his witness former Senate Clerk Mark Audcent on the topic of Duffy’s highly questionable claim of residence in Prince Edward Island.

Holmes suggested that becoming a senator doesn’t suddenly make you a resident of that province, you need to have already been a resident. To further his point, he raised the Senate requirement that a senatorial candidate must be at least 30 years old to be a senator. And this is when he brought up Bieber.

“(Justin) Bieber,” Holmes said, “is 21 years old. If the Governor General (were) to appoint the Canadian singer to the Senate tomorrow, would he become 30?” 

“Of course not,” Audcent replied.

Our language cries out for a word for this fatuous use of the beguiling Bieber’s name.  Bieber’s Law sounds more like a TMZ headline, followed by photos of police lines and luxury cars in seedy places.  Bieblaw won’t stand the test of time.  Perhaps it should be deliberately obscure, like Godwin’s.  We’ll have to name it after the prosecutor, or maybe even Duffy’s Law.

No, it has to be Holmes.  But the apostrophe’s placement (Holmes, Holmes’, or Holmes’s) would use up all of the air in the discussion, lessening the term’s value.  How about The Law of Holmes?  The Holmes Law?  Reductio ad Bieberium?

Feel free to offer alternate suggestions as comments below.

My friend Tom lives in Southern Pennsylvania on a large wooded lot.  He sent along the following account of his attempt to live-trap a groundhog whose digging imperils the earthen dam which holds his pond in place above a creek.

On Mon, Apr 6, 2015 at 11:38 AM, Tom Stutzman wrote:

The groundhog that last year took up residence under our barn came out of hibernation last week and has been foraging on the lawn regularly.  Having excavated a den under the 2 foot thick stone bearing wall of the 300 year-old building, and having piled mounds of dirt on both sides of same, I resigned myself to evicting him.   As a “live and let live” guy, I figured the large “Hav-a-Hart” live trap would be the solution.   I could simply load him into the bed of the truck and release him on the other side of Nolde Forest.   This, even though his attempt to find a new home could very well have him run over on State Road 625, along which many a mammal meets its maker.

A few days ago, I scattered half of an apple on the lawn below the barn and near his den.   The dozen thin slices didn’t get a chance to turn brown in the sun before he had eaten every one.

This morning I repeated the offering, but introduced the baited trap.  Friggin’ groundhog ate the trail of sliced apple all the way to the trap door as I watched from the kitchen with binocs and mumbled my best Bill Murray commentary (see Caddyshack, the movie). He stuck his head just inside to get a piece, then returned to the den for a short nap. Now addicted, temptation had him return for a more thorough inspection of the strange box which included a walk-around.  He seemed to take careful note of the large cache of fruit on the trigger amidship.
After yet another retreat he couldn’t help himself any more and lost his fear.  He entered the trap and tripped the doors, but because he is a rather large fellow, the entry door hit him on the rump, thereby not allowing the lock to engage.  The rascal grabbed a final section of apple, backed out, and in total defiance of the gods, ate it right there at the door. Then he stood on his hind legs and flashed a middle claw towards the house.

Where’s my ammo?

You learn that a TV series viewed on a laptop without commercials is a highly enjoyable form of entertainment/addiction which rather reminds me of the scifi image of brain implants connected to an electric charge leading to isolated individuals plugging in and wasting away until death.

Seriously, mainlining TV rots one’s brain.  In moments of lucidity I have thought about this.  First and foremost, the sensory barrage, the all-at-once-ness of the program reduces the need for imagination, so the brain can slide into neutral.  But the seditious part is that you can’t go to sleep.  Sleep is the natural protection against brain overload.  So there you are, force-fed.
If you watch a video of the force-feeding of geese you’ll notice the “abused” birds line up for the privilege of having their crops distended grotesquely by the pumped grain concoction.  Geese clearly like the force-feeding procedure.  Human brains enjoy the television equivalent.
That small disclaimer aside, I’d suggest that many television series writers are very good at what they do, and when it comes to imaginative content, in general I find modern movies pale by comparison.  But think about it:  a movie is basically an expensive adaptation of a short story.  A television series like Downton Abbey is a big, honking Victorian novel by comparison, creating a believable world with an open invitation to explore many of its nooks and crannies as the series develops.
Gray’s Anatomy is another solid escapist page-turner, though it pivots on quite a narrow focus, the love lives of its changing characters.  Thin gruel, rather like the personality of its protagonist, but still an attractive fantasy world far from mundane reality.
But where my TV addiction really became interesting was at the point when I ran out of Downton Abbey episodes and began Sons of Anarchy.  I was curious to see how such a morally repugnant group could have held the narrative together for seven seasons.  It didn’t take long to realize that the writer was stealing from the classics in order to craft a tale which, while unbelievable, nevertheless had the feel of something good.  If someone wants to write an undergraduate essay on the subject, look at parallels between Sons of Anarchy and Hamlet.  Look for a ghost.  Jax’s father’s journal.  Villain like Claudius?  Try Clay.  Clod?  Clay.  Queen Gertrude?  Jax’s mother around whom the series revolves.  Good grief, Jax even sends her back to Clay’s bed in order to deceive him.  Even the comic figures are straight off Shakespeare’s stage, as is the bawdy humour.
O.K.  Sons of Anarchy was way better than I expected.  But could it compare to a Tom Stoppard treatment of the same material in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead?  No, but Stoppard didn’t have to provide new material twenty-four times a year for seven years.
To conclude, the big problem with watching TV series is the difficulty in returning to reading as a source of one’s literature.  The sleep reaction interferes greatly, so reading sessions tend to be short and unsatisfying.  Some discipline will be required to re-start the reading habits of a lifetime.
I still find I have no time for mindless pulp fiction.  If the book is fresh and offers a new or interesting perspective I’ll dive right in, but it had better be good if it is to hold my attention.  Television is a formidable medium for the transmission of literature, and like the black walnut tree in my garden, it drops tanin from its leaves to inhibit competing growth.
*Wordpress clearly doesn’t like the format of the text I imported from Quora.  Repeated attempts to repair the paragraphing haven’t worked.  Sorry.  RC.


Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, currently with the highest production volumes of all herbicides. It is used in more than 750 different products for agriculture, forestry, urban, and home applications. Its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant crop varieties. Glyphosate has been detected in air during spraying, in water, and in food. There was limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA,14 Canada,6 and Sweden7 reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides. The AHS cohort did not show a significantly increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In male CD-1 mice, glyphosate induced a positive trend in the incidence of a rare tumour, renal tubule carcinoma. A second study reported a positive trend for haemangiosarcoma in male mice.15 Glyphosate increased pancreatic islet-cell adenoma in male rats in two studies. A glyphosate formulation promoted skin tumours in an initiation-promotion study in mice.

Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating absorption. Soil microbes degrade glyphosate to aminomethylphosphoric acid (AMPA). Blood AMPA detection after poisonings suggests intestinal microbial metabolism in humans. Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro. One study reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) in residents of several communities after spraying of glyphosate formulations.16 Bacterial mutagenesis tests were negative. Glyphosate, glyphosate formulations, and AMPA induced oxidative stress in rodents and in vitro. The Working Group classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A).

Rafe Mair offers a very well researched essay on some elements of Justin Trudeau’s recent speech.


Finally, a crust

March 12, 2015

Anyone who has read far in this blog knows about my weakness for crusted snow. I love to travel on it, to enjoy the freedom it gives, to watch the dog react to her new mobility, to wiggle some powered vehicle to the top of the thin icy layer and giddily drive around in expanding circles until it drops through with a great, tire-spinning crash.

After four days of thaws dragged the bottom out of the huge snow accumulation in this area, last night it froze hard. At dawn (after the online papers and breakfast, anyway) I set out with a bemused spaniel to see how far we could get on the snowmobile trails which were the consistency of a Dairy Queen slushy yesterday afternoon.

While the crust over unpacked snow was fine for Taffy, it wouldn’t hold me. The packed trails were solid, though, so we set off, lightly dressed (no vest for the dog, vest and light jacket for me) to explore this fresh wonderland.

The northwest wind was pretty cool, but that sped us along until we reached the woodlot. It’s been a while since we’ve walked through this section. Two middle-aged maples have died and shed their bark at the tops, and one small elm. I might be able to salvage a log or two from one maple.

We came upon feathers and bones from a kill. At first I thought it was a grouse, but the grouse-sized feathers looked more like turkey plumage, and a remaining leg bone was quite large. It surprised me that the predator left a bit of skin and some bones. Perhaps it wasn’t a coyote. A little further along Taffy found another kill just emerging from the snow: something furry, likely a squirrel. I called her away from it in case of porcupine quills, and didn’t investigate further. I haven’t examined a fox kill before, perhaps the smaller canine is less fastidious than the coyote. Or the predator could be an owl, I suppose.

As we followed the trail to the north side of the woods I stepped gingerly around tracks of the mess I made a week ago when the Ski Doo bogged down in drifts. I had to blast a wide circular path through small saplings or else leave the machine there until spring and worse, walk the half-mile back to the house through deep, soft snow. (You won’t laugh if you’ve ever had to do this.)

In today’s cold I decided to jog back to the house. That worked fine until one foot broke through the track, then both feet, and then my wrists and elbows. Oh, well, I wasn’t cold any more and the lungs were now getting an excellent workout.

A fast walk would have to do. Taffy enjoyed the chance to range across the small fields wherever her nose took her. She had a great time digging beneath the crust near a small ash and came up chewing a couple of times. There’d been a lot of vole damage on those particular trees last winter, so go get ’em, Taff.

And back to the house, still clean, refreshed, and a bit chuffed at taking advantage of the window of cold temperature. I love the crust.

Just back from a very strenuous snowmobile ride in the woodlot. Is there ever a lot of soft snow in those tall drifts! Three times I corkscrewed my machine into bottomless snow when I lost the edge of the packed track.

The last time with my dog aboard, the trick of using the throttle to get out of an unstable situation (before the laws of physics applied themselves) didn’t work. Neither could I shift our weight fast enough to right the tilting snowmobile as it found its way into pristine snow under the overhanging boughs of a walnut tree. It probably seemed like any other disembarkation from the snowmobile for Taffy: face first into deep snow, swim to the track, run home to Mommy. That’s how she gets her winter runs. This one was shorter than most. By the time I found my way out of the white abyss, she was well on her way back to the house.

The tumble, however, was a novel experience for me. I just lay there for a while, weightless after the low-speed overturn, mildly surprised that when I put a foot down to stand up, there was no down to stand up on. There was nothing for it but to swim up onto the Ski Doo, perch on the far side, and power out of the snow, panting mightily from the unexpected exertion.

Great cardio, I guess. Non interficat triumphat.


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