Monthly Archives: October 2005

If Beta had been better we’d be burying it now

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to pay our last respects to VHS. Friend, colleague, practical joker, cut down by digitalis. Thanks for the memories.

The Citizen obituary said after only 28 years, VHS tapes won’t be made as of 2006. In an intimation of mortality, a year ago the Daily Telegraph said Britain’s largest electronics chain no longer sold VCRs, because DVD players now outsold them 40:1, adding unkindly “VHS seem as old-fashioned as the eight-track audio player or Betamax” and “Like many consumer technologies… video recorders owed much of their early success to providing easier access to pornography.”

Please. Nihil nisi bonum. At a time like this, let us set aside such issues (or dub them onto DVD for later) and remember our friend as an unassuming everyman: easy to use, affordable and rugged. Without the VCR, how could we have enjoyed hours of our uncle, mixing up the on and off buttons, missing all the key bits of his son’s wedding but filming his shoes going from room to room? It wouldn’t be the same on 8 mm. Continue reading

Tories lack policies, principles — and hope of winning

The Tories’ latest brainwave, the Citizen reported Wednesday, is “they’ll only topple the government with the NDP’s help.” You’re trying to drive us mad, aren’t you?

The background: NDP MP Bev Desjarlais just quit her caucus after being denied renomination because she deviated from the party line on gay marriage. (NDP tolerance doesn’t extend to dissent.) So now the Tories plus the Bloc outnumber the Liberals plus the NDP, and could bring down the government if they get the support of two of the four independents. How might the Conservatives appeal to these independents? If they even wanted to, I mean.

They could offer them machine tools. No, it’s not the joke about surrealists changing a lightbulb. The Tories have a policy of giving tradespersons a $500 tax credit for tools, and a $1,000 grant for new apprentices to buy tools and stuff. And tax breaks for transit passes, fishing gear, and maybe tampons as well. Tory finance critic Monte Solberg says, “It’s true, we are shameless supporters of middle-income Canadians.” And shameless big spenders. He assures us these loophole proposals “are, on one hand, very important tax breaks for certain groups of people. But, because they are for a specific group of people, they’re not that expensive overall and they are really designed to help the economy where the economy needs help.” Or possibly the Tory party. Say, in “vote-rich Ontario.’’ Continue reading

Why a house is worth less because it’s worth more

You know the old gag about how your house is making more money than you are? Well, I can go one better. My house isn’t just making more than I am, it’s making it at my expense. Because my property assessment just went up, so did my taxes, reducing the price a prospective buyer would pay. In short, my house is now worth less because it’s worth more. Government has a special magic all its own.

If anyone else said my house was worth more, it would be. If Bill Gates said it. Or Avril Lavigne. Or the guy down at the corner singing the blues. “There is a house near Orleans that’s worth a rising sum…” Especially in his case, the effect would be small. But a few people might wonder if he’d heard something, so if his opinion had any impact at all, it would necessarily be favourable.

Unfortunately it wasn’t some hobo who said it. Instead, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) declared my house value rose by one-sixth last year. That, incidentally, means it should double in five years. As you will be aware if you read your mail, yours probably did something similar. The average residential increase Ottawa-wide was 11.84 per cent, for a doubling in about seven years. What a boom town. Too bad the rise in property values is pushing house prices down. Continue reading

Scotland has a lot to do to woo me back ‘home’

Hoots mon. What’s the story here? It seems the Scots want me back. Och Aye it’s a braw brach moonlicht nacht the …

Maybe I won’t be buying a ticket just yet.

To be honest, they haven’t invited me personally. But Scotland’s chief minister, wee Jock McConnell, is coming soon to persuade Canadians of Scottish descent to return to the auld country. One newspaper said Paul Martin was a prospective candidate, so maybe he’ll take the low road … but enough about question period. I’m intrigued to know why I shouldn’t go. Continue reading