Dan’s Notes

This is a section for stray thoughts, comments, observations, answers to readers' questions, whatever. Consider it a blog without the obligation to post five times a day. For those who want more, please take note of the little blue bird below: one click and you, too, can be subjected to an incessant barrage of Gardnerian thoughtlets.

twitter bird

Thanks For All The Fish

Thursday, 20 February 2014 18:34

It seems I’m unemployed. And I’m not even a philosophy major.


Sorry, Simpsons joke. I thought about doing something with the bit in The Meaning of Life where British officers carry on the daily routine despite a Zulu attack and the unfortunate removal of one chap’s leg by a tiger — “a tiger in Africa?” — but that’s too much effort. I’m unemployed now, and like all unemployed people I’m too lazy to do anything except scam the system.


Sorry, Fox News joke. I promise I’ll stick to British material for the remainder.


Anyway, I’m unemployed. For years, the Ottawa Citizen has been shrinking — staff, budget, pages — and it’s about to shrink some more. I was told this week there would no longer be room for my column in what’s left. Hence, I am unemployed.

My dad

Thursday, 06 February 2014 08:57

Here is Jim Gardner in his heyday. The bears are yearlings, anesthetized in their hibernation dens so radio collars can be put on them and their movements tracked. 


So it goes

Monday, 13 January 2014 09:07

*The following notice will appear in the Parry Sound North Star and the Northern Daily News (Kirkland Lake).*

James Francis Gardner

Jim Gardner died January 7, 2014, after a difficult struggle with a rare disease. It was the end of a long and rich life devoted to family and nature.

Born in Richmond Hill in 1937, Jim was the son of the late Frank and Phyllis Gardner. At the time, Richmond Hill was deep in the countryside and it inspired Jim's fascination with wildlife in all its forms. Jim studied at the Ontario Agricultural College and played football for the Guelph Redmen. After graduating in 1961, Jim became a biologist with the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests (Ministry of Natural Resources) in Pembroke, Swastika and finally Parry Sound. Over the years, he worked with black bears, lynx, beaver, geese, fish and almost anything else that flies, walks or swims. He retired to Hakmatak in Hurdville, where he spent many enjoyable years cutting firewood, gardening, carving, hunting and photographing wildlife. He was locally famous as "the bluebird man" for maintaining a line of bluebird boxes in honour of his best friend, Conservation Officer Henry Kujala. 

Jim leaves behind a host of friends all across Ontario. He is survived by his wife, June, sons Ted and Dan, daughters-in-law Robyne and Sandra, and grandchildren Victoria, Winston and MacDougall. All of us will forever miss the big man with the big spirit. 

If you have one of Jim's bluebird boxes, please clean it out and watch for the birds in the spring.

Peter van Loan's Saddest Day

Thursday, 13 December 2012 09:56

Way back in 2005, Peter van Loan was an opposition MP. Like other Conservatives, he was appalled at the government's excessive power, its sleazy and deceitful behaviour, and its belittling of Parliament's critical role in our system of government. And then, it happened: an "extraordinary closure motion to shut down debate."

And Now For Something Completely Different

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 16:07

In a few weeks -- which is to say, I'm not sure exactly when, but soon -- I'll be taking a leave of absence from the Ottawa Citizen. It will be a long one: 18 months.

I'm writing a book. Or more precisely, I am co-writing a book. My colleague will be Phil Tetlock, the esteemed psychologist at the Wharton School, who is, as I'm sure many of you know, the man behind the biggest and most famous study of expert predictions ever conducted.

The book Phil and I will write is about forecasting, but it's different than anything that's been done on the subject. As Phil likes to say, there's been enough cursing of the cognitive darkness. In a huge, new research program, Phil is putting his extraordinary talents to the lighting of candles. The goal is to develop simple, practical tools for improving foresight. And it appears he has done it: Preliminary results are truly impressive.

No, Phil's techniques do not turn people into oracles and gurus. And no, neither of us thinks that it's possible to know what China's economy will look like in 20 years or who will win the presidential election of 2016. And yes, we still think gurus and oracles, and the people who take their predictions seriously, are pretty silly. But we do think modest improvement in subjective forecasting accuracy is possible. That may sound, well, modest. But in so many ways, even a modest increase in foresight is a very big deal. And best of all, this ain't snake oil. Phil's work is being put to just about the most severe scientific test imaginable, and it's looking better every day. (More background here.)  

The next 18 months will be demanding. And a heck of a lot of fun. We're going to look at forecasting in intelligence, technology, finance, and other fields. We'll talk to some amazing people. And in addition to Phil's main work, we'll be doing some ancillary experiments: I already feel like a ten-year-old with a new chemistry set filled with things that go boom.

I'll still be on Twitter, and occasionally updating this website, but my output will decline precipitously. Or at least it should. If it doesn't, drop me an email and tell me to get back to writing the book.

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