Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Washington Post Invitational, Part 1

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing only one letter, and supply a new definition.  The winners:
1. Cashtration: A purchase which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a  hillbilly.
5. Bozone: The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating.
6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right?
12. Decafalon: The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
13. Glibido: All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic: The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
16. Beelzebug: A bug that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
17. Caterpallor: The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ginch, Gonch, Undies, Tighty Whities...

My wife just about cracks up every time I say that I'm out of ginch, or that my gonch are uncomfortable.  Which, of course, led me to wonder about the many synonyms there must be for men's underwear.  To my surprise there aren't that many!  (Or at least that many that can be repeated out here.)  Although they can largely be divided into two categories (boxers and briefs), here are some others: undies, drawers, tighty whities, jockey shorts, skivvies, undershorts, jocks, underpants, and butt huggers.  And for you fashionistas, there seems to be a trend at present toward very brief briefs, ie. bikini briefs and thongs for men.  (In a recent poll, apparently 41% of men prefer wearing briefs, while 12 % prefer boxer shorts - which leaves 47% of men unaccounted for either because they wouldn't answer the question, didn't wear any - a la Kramer who didn't want to restrict his "boys" - or because they wore something other than boxers or briefs.)  All of which leaves me somewhat unsatisfied.  Surely there must be more synonyms for men's underwear that my wife would recognize and perhaps smile at, but not send her into stitches of laughter.  Please submit your favorite as a comment below, anonymously if you like.  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Southern Note: Mobile Misery

I just hung up on my fifth call this weekend.  Not intentionally, mind you (who in their right mind would hang up on an automatic call from an airline telling you about a flight change?)  No, it was an accident, caused by a slip of the finger on my new, very fancy cell phone - as were all the other hangups.  These days, cell phones can do almost everything a person could want.  On mine, I can send and receive emails, provide a wireless network for up to five people, play music, take photos, even read books and watch movies if I want (assuming my eyes are up to the challenge, which they are not). The only thing that I need to do, but can't, is answer the phone correctly when it rings - which to me, kind of defeats the purpose of having a cell phone...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Demise: Mecca Mean Time

I read the other day that the Muslim world has proposed a change to the international system of time zones, including the establishment of Mecca Mean Time (MMT).  I believe the quote was "why should the time of day be based on a small unimportant town in England, when the world's center is Mecca?".   Hmmm... Well, I guess Mecca is just as good as Greenwich.  Now where would that put the International Dateline?  By my (admittedly) rough reckoning it would run right through British Columbia.  Tuesday in Kimberley, Wednesday in Vancouver.  Yeah, that ought to work just great.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Artichoke Fearts

Wow!  Had some artichoke dip with chips (crisps to our loyal readers across the pond) last night.  Delicious!  However, my innards virtually exploded afterward.  Holy Moly!  I actually felt propelled from behind as I walked around the house.  I've always enjoyed artichoke dip at parties where it's been proffered, but now I'm trying to recall whether I always turned into a mobile natural gas machine afterward.  I know these particular artichoke hearts were fresh - grown in Peru and imported (still white in their little jar) to Ontario for distribution to the rest of us.  Not like the big Wal-Mart jar of grey ones from Chile that look like preserved fungi fetuses from the old museum in the Galt Gardens of my youth.  Those look too scary to eat now - or ever.  Move over cauliflower, you've got company on the list of the world's most vile veggies!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Potash: Below The Surface

When BHP Billiton, the Australian mining giant, announced its $39 billion bid for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan last week a lot of wheels were set in motion.  Early on, the talking heads of CNBC had to learn how to pronounce "Saskatchewan" in the first place so that they could even discuss one of the biggest hostile takeover bids in history.  (Don't ease their pain by telling them that most of us call it "Saskabush" anyway.)  The next item was the hand-wringing of our politicians as another Canadian corporate icon is up for grabs and an extremely important one strategically - the whole world needs fertilizer to feed its burgeoning population.  The third was Potash Corp's appeal for a white knight to rescue it - followed quickly by Rio Tinto's announcement that it would not be making a bid, and ...  Hmmm, I thought to myself, where are the Chinese in all of this?  BHP makes gazillions selling iron ore to China, while Big Red itself has been spreading its evil tentacles into all sorts of places (Africa, the Tar Sands) to hasten its emergence from the Stone Age and pacify its growing consumer middle class in a vain attempt to prop up communism.  I hate to say (see) it, but Sinochem - even Sinofin - could emerge as BHP's competition for Potash in the coming weeks.  In light of that, I hope CEO Kloppers of BHP has deep enough pockets or Canadian farmers will be buying fertilizer from Saskatchewan via a Beijing middleman - unless China decides to keep all the potash for itself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Demise: Bring Back Swiss Wolves!

The return of wolves has been controversial in every jurisdiction where it has occurred.  Farmers and ranchers whose ancestors worked hard to eradicate the wolf are now forced to sacrifice their animals to this heathen beast both in the U.S. and Canada.  However, I recently noticed that even in Europe the demise of common sense is on the rise in this regard.  I happen to like Switzerland, where you can ski from town to town in winter and thoroughly enjoy the mountains year-round.  Farmers put their herds up in the high alpine meadows in the summer.  Tourists hike and/or climb wherever they like.  Imagine my surprise when I read that wolves have been allowed to re-enter Switzerland, and that the penalty for killing one is a fine and up to a year in prison.  You can only legally kill a wolf it you can prove that it has killed at least 35 sheep over a 4 month period or 25 sheep in a single month from a "protected flock" under the Bern Convention.  The problem in Valais, my favorite western canton, is that many flocks are small (20-30 sheep) thus employing sheepdogs and shepherds is too expensive and the whole herd can be wiped out because it is "unprotected".  Sheep aside, Switzerland depends heavily on tourism and needs to exterminate all wolves or tourists will go elsewhere the first time some hiker's child is attacked.  Is any wolf worth that?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Scourge: Radical Non-public Schools

As the kids head back to school it occurred to me that public school systems everywhere continue to suffer from cutbacks, low registrations, etc.  It seems that everyone wants their children educated in their own weird religion.  No wonder our secular government is under attack when children are raised to think that people from other schools are somehow "wrong", and that theirs is the only "true path".  Non-public schools hurt us in two ways: actively training religious nuts and passively under-training the secular leaders of tomorrow.  A friend of ours who left Northern Ireland to escape The Troubles and raise a family where religious warfare wasn't an everyday occurrence was shocked and disappointed to find that Canada had (at that time) two completely separate school systems.  Things have only gotten worse since then, with every nut job either supporting a "charter school" or even "home schooling" their children to inculcate their offspring in their religious views.  (There are rare occasions when home schooling is appropriate, but that's another topic for another day.)  If we truly want a world with everyone getting along, secular public schools are where it needs to start - otherwise a secular government is impossible to maintain.  This is an urgent and serious problem in Canada if we want to avoid the religious warfare so evident elsewhere on the planet.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Whiskey Throat

"After a long night with Jack, many people complain about whiskey throat, a sore throat caused by drinking too much whiskey.  Smooth taste in the evening; sore throat in the morning - it’s all part of the Jack Daniels experience", according to one source.  Of course "Whiskey Throat" also pertains to how your voice sounds the morning after the night before, not only how your throat feels.  (It's that raspy, gravelly voice like that of Janis Joplin.  In fact, the "whiskey throat" voice - also known as PGV or Party Girl Voice - is much sought after in many musical circles, especially the Blues.  John Lee Hooker would be another prime example of the voice so desired.)  I've experienced it in the past, although I think tequila was the likely culprit (can't actually remember).  But what I want to know is what causes it physiologically.  I suspect that alcohol destroys some of the protective fluids produced by the body to keep our vocal chords, etc. well-lubed but I need some help here folks.  And while you're at it, am I correct that age might play a part in the likelihood of a whiskey throat in the morning?  And when someone has a permanent whiskey throat, is it because of booze, age or both (or either for that matter)?  Is the onset of a permanent whiskey throat slow or overnight?  Hmmm... 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Word For The Day: vapidity

vapidity - vah-pidd-etty - 1) the quality of being vapid and unsophisticated; lacking liveliness, animation, or interest; dull: as in "vapid conversation". 2) lacking taste, zest, or flavor; flat: as in "vapid beer".  Etymology: from the Latin vapidus (flat-tasting); akin to the Latin vappa (flat wine) and even perhaps to the Latin vapor.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

U.S. Government Propping Up The Stock Markets?

Hmmm...  Now here's a conspiracy theory!  (The old one about the remaining investment banks on Wall Street being used by their client (and benefactor) the U.S. Government to suppress the price of gold is at least six months old.)  But the strange behaviour of the equity markets lately - every time they're headed south they "recover" after four or five days - got me thinking that perhaps the Feds are also manipulating them.  Far-fetched, you say?  I think not.  Of course, the overt way to do it would be with the wording of various government board statements and reports, which are routinely scrutinized in detail by analysts and the financial media.  But there are also covert means, extremely sophisticated and virtually opaque to detection (certainly to your humble scribe, although I've read about them).  And with the extremely low volume (basically only professional traders are in the markets these days), it wouldn't be that hard for the Feds to surreptitiously step in.  Of course, it could also be aliens doing the manipulation.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Twiglets Versus Gold

As addressed in a previous post here, the British confection named Twiglets is a fave of mine.  I believe I wrote that post upon my return from Calgary, where I had purchased a 150 gram bag for CA $9.50 plus GST, and - unbeknownst to me - my daughter had purchased two more bags for future considerations.  That got me to thinking that, although I had consciously decided to expend a tenner to indulge myself, the family in total actually spent close to three times that on the taste I crave.  The cost?  6.33 Canadian cents per gram before tax.  Now a troy ounce of gold contains 31.103477 grams, and today is worth US $1233.70 per ounce - or $39.664375 per gram.  The exchange rate is C$ 1.00 to US$ 1.0289 as I write this, so in Canuck bucks gold is worth $40.810675 per gram.   The Gold to Twiglets ratio is therefore 40810675/6.33 or 644.7184 - say 645 - so there you go.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Southern Note: Cadbury and Cabernet

A friend recently sent me this quote (author unknown):  "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body; but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO - what a ride!""  How nice that someone thoughtfully gave me an excuse for my lifestyle...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Urge to Blog

What is it that makes me do this everyday?  What deep-seated psychological urge makes me risk what's left of my reputation by blogging?  Am I a narcissist?  A thwarted writer?  A suppressed something-or-other?  I don't know.  I'm an early riser, and it seems that at this time of the morning ideas are a dime a dozen - often I'll start 2 or even 3 new posts per sitting.  I have other things to do, Buddha knows.  But blogging one paragraph a day doesn't take long so it's not really a waste of time, is it?  (One paragraph is just right for me due to my legendary short attention span.)  There must be something therapeutic about it.  I've always found writing out my thoughts to aid in clarifying them for myself.  And I suppose when I'm gone my wife and kids can re-read this stuff and have a few laughs.  What is it that makes me do this?  And why would anyone want to read the (admittedly) random thoughts of another?  That's it - it's you, not me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Week At The Beach

Twenty-eight years ago we took our two-year-old son and his baby sister to "the beach".  This year we were at the same beach with our two-year-old grandson.  Very cool.  The beach has changed over those years, of course - well not really the beach (or the lake) we decided.  If you stand on the beach and face the lake very, very little has changed which is why we're still happy to go there.  The view, the sun, the heat, the lake - none of that has changed.  If you stand on the beach and face the hotel, a lot has changed.  The motel has been replaced by a hotel, a lot of sand has been replaced by poorly-planned landscaping, the families we used to enjoy so much don't come anymore, there are a few rowdies around on the weekends, nobody plays volleyball anymore, etc.  The solution?  Face the lake, not the hotel.  We had a great week.  Got some sailing in, built a lot of sand castles, did some winery tours, cooked communally, enjoyed great sunrises and sunsets, even met some new folks, etc.  Yes, some things have changed and not for the better, but the lake and the beach itself are the same - they are geographical features, not subject to change.  So we have booked again next year.  Maybe we can even resurrect the daily 2 pm volleyball match before officially starting Happy Hour - who knows?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Keeping It All In Perspective

The journey is more important than the destination.  True.  You could be hit by a truck today and never get to complete that journey or see that destination.  Also true.  However, you will likely live the average Canadian lifespan of around 80.  Likely is the operative word here, because it is based on hard data, statistics gathered by government and the insurance industry over a couple of hundred years.  A book I'm reading makes exactly that point (RISK: THE SCIENCE AND POLITICS OF FEAR), ie. we need to accurately assess various risks before reacting to them - you may then decide they don't warrant any reaction at all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Word For The Day: cojones

cojones - kəˈhuːnəz - vulgar Spanish word for testicles denoting courage or a “brazen, brave attitude”.  Contextually, its usage is like that of the Yiddish chutzpah (nerve).  (A common euphemistic misspelling, "cajones", actually refers to "furniture drawers”, so don't make a fool of yourself by confusing the two.)  Etymology: Spanish: s. cojón and huevos (eggs) are vulgar curse-word usages for testicles.  The singular form, cojón derives from the vulgar Latin coleonem, from cōleus (leather bag for liquids).  Analogues to the Spanish cojones exist in at least ten other languages.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stress as a Major Cardiac Risk Factor

Is stress a major cardiac risk factor?  I have a wager based on this one, so let's review the evidence.  The term stress was first used in a biological context by endocrinologist Hans Selye who famously proposed that there is both good stress (eustress) as well as bad stress (distress).  Okay, thank you Hans.  The Heart and Stroke Foundation lists stress as one of 13 risk factors, which doesn't exactly make it a "major" one.  The American Heart Association lists stress under "other factors" - not "major factors" in their list of 12 contributors to cardiac risk.  And the Expert Working Group of the National Heart Foundation of Australia (who specifically reviewed the evidence I seek) reported in 2003 that: "there is no strong or consistent evidence of an independent causal association between ... work-related stressors ...and coronary heart disease (CHD)."  However, their study goes on to say: "the increased risk contributed by these psychosocial factors is of similar order to the more conventional CHD risk factors such as smoking, dyslipidemia and hypertension" - all of which are acknowledged universally as major cardiac risk factors!  So which is it, boys?  Mind you that was then and (Buddha knows) the world is a lot more stressed out these days.  So, I think I win.  I just haven't been able to find the evidence in print.  Okay, it's a draw.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Skeptic's Creed.

"You can believe anything you want, but if you want me to believe it - prove it."  The Skeptic's Creed, as I call it, I think originated with Carl Sagan.  (Now, I wonder.  Could it be that "sagan" is derived from "sage", as in an "all-knowing, learned, wise" person?  Gotcha thinking, didn't I?)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Book?

Recently a grad student in philosophy recounted an interesting story to me.  She was presented with an important question representing the lion's share of her final exam in a course concerned in large part with various deep philosophical arguments about what is real and what isn't.  The textbook used by the professor neatly laid out the classical theorems, and the assignment on the final exam was to use said arguments to prove that the textbook itself didn't exist.  Whether it was the sheer audacity of the answer, or some existentialist gestalt something-or-other (showing my ignorance here, folks), she thought for a few minutes, wrote down two words, and walked out of the three-hour exam.  The two words?  "What book?"  The mark: an "A".  As soon as you talk about the book you're admitting that it exists!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Delicate "Boys" - Aren't They!

A great friend and relative recently sent me an email about two U of Calgary professors who have discovered that up to 90% of the minnows in the Red Deer and Oldman rivers are female, when the expected number would be 55-60%.  (A major research project while I was an undergrad was a water analysis of the headwaters of the Oldman River.)  They suggest that more research is needed, but that indications are that chemicals in these rivers are affecting male hormones.  That reminded me of a documentary called, I think, "Where Have All The Boys Gone?" about a similar dearth of male children in a Sarnia, Ontario, area in close proximity to petrochemical plants.  And to hearken back even further, I remember reading somewhere that the rate of mutations in human sperm jumped when Neanderthals or similar gents started to wear primitive clothing (furs no doubt) - thus raising the testicular temperature several notches.  All of which points to males as being the weaker sex in one sense - we are more easily adversely affected by environmental changes.  Now could this have something to do with the fact that in high school there always seemed to be 2 guys for every girl, but now I'm told that the situation is reversed?  Hmmm ...  Glad we're drinking well water out here!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Most Interesting Man In The World 3

He is a big man in many ways, not only built like a brick you know what.  A life spent in construction and on the ranch means he can build or fix anything, and he doesn't suffer fools gladly.  Even at three score and eleven, watch out if you keep him awake after 9 pm - he'll dance until sunrise (with a few stops on the way home).  One of the nicest men you'd ever want to meet, be careful not to cross him.  He is an accomplished woodworker, landscaper, volunteer and patriarch to a fine family.  An honoured member of the BWW, he has survived both Asleep At The Wheel in concert at the Longhorn and greasy bikers at the Great Northern.  Wanderlust and an inquisitive nature mean he will drop everything for an open-ended trip to New Denver, Alaska, the Maritimes, Spain or the wilds of Australia.  A sometime pool shark, windsurfer, golfer, kayaker and dedicated alpine skier, he does more on three artificial hips than most men do on the two they were born with.  He is the most interesting man in the world!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Southern Note - The Walk Score

One of my daughters is making her fourth move in three years - all while gainfully employed with the same organization.  And this time, she has a new weapon at her disposal, as she searches for a place on the internet for a place to live in Minneapolis - a city she has never visited.  The Walk Score.  This amazing internet service (http://www.walkscore.com/) judges the "walkability" of any address in metropolitan areas (probably doesn't apply out here...) based on the distance to stores and amenities, safety of the area, etc.  A score of 90-100 means it is a Walker's Paradise and daily errands do not require a car; conversely a score of 0-24 indicates that all errands require a car.  Walkability, of course, has many benefits to the health of the individual and environment and a high Walk Score also increases the likelihood that she'll pick a safe neighborhood full of people who like to walk instead of drive.  Which will make us both very happy...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Twiglets (Not the Model's Children)

Whoa, here's another blast from the past - at least for North Americans.  They used to come in cans like Planters Peanuts, now they don't.  Now I have to pay $9.50 for a 150 gram bag imported from England (Jacob's Bakery, Leicestershire, established 1885, to be precise).  For the uninitiated, Twiglets (named because they look like twigs - no, really!), are a snack food with a peculiar taste, sort of like a black peppery concoction on a "79% wholegrain" stick.  Not everyone's cup of tea, they are certainly mine.  I love 'em.  Can't get my hands on enough of 'em.  If you ever get close to a bag, try 'em - or at least buy 'em for me.  Nothing artificial, baked not fried, high in fibre, great unique taste ... what more could you want?  Twiglets were introduced by Peek Frean & Co for Christmas 1929.  They were previously available in curry, mint and 'tangy' Worcestershire sauce flavour, although these have now been discontinued.  My mother is responsible for introducing all of us to Twiglets, and there always seemed to be some in the house.  Now that your mouth is watering with anticipation I regret to inform that you'll only find them in specialty food shops that carry British items, like the one in Market Mall in Calgary.  Go get 'em!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Contango vs. Backwardation

Contango is the situation where, and the amount by which, the price of a non-perishable commodity (such as crude oil) for future delivery is higher than the spot (current) price.  This is a normal situation because carrying costs will accrue on the commodity until delivery, such as warehousing, interest, etc.  Backwardation is the opposite market condition, ie. the future delivery price is lower than the spot price.  (Why would a future price be lower?  Perhaps because there is some other benefit than price to owning the commodity, such as convenience, security of supply, etc.)  As contract maturity approaches, the futures price (whether higher or lower than the spot price) must necessarily converge toward the spot price as buyers and sellers have more certainty about supply and demand, etc.  A contract in contango will decrease in value until it equals the future spot price of the underlying commodity.  For an excellent plain English explanation see: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/07/contango_backwardation.asp .  Contango and normal backwardation are sometimes confused with "normal and inverted" futures curves, respectively.  The essential difference is that the former refer to the pattern of prices over time, while the latter refer to a snapshot in time.   Now you know.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tinglestat Remembered

During World War II there was a whole theater of conflict that few people know much about, that being the battles fought in the Alps and other mountain ranges of Europe.  An avid skier before the war, right out of med school my father was assigned (to his great delight) as the medical officer to the Lovat Scouts, a British mountaineering troop then training on the Columbia Icefields near Jasper, Alberta.  He met men from other mountainous nations during his training, and became fast friends with several in the tight-knit skier-soldier fraternity.  One such fellow was a Norwegian whose first name was "Tinglestat".  Upon going overseas, these troops established camps high in the mountains from which to engage the enemy.  Communication between the various Allied camps was risky as it was largely carried out by messengers skiing between them and on one such occasion, while running a message for the Americans, Tinglestat was the victim of a machine gun attack.  After the war, as a tribute to his friend Dad named our first family sailboat "Tingle" in his honour, and the tradition has stuck.  Next week, we'll be sailing Tingle IV on a B.C. lake, and I'm sure I'll tingle when she rises out of the water and planes in a good, stiff wind - but that's not why she's named "Tingle".  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If You Love It, Don't Change It, Part 2

Why do immigrants to Canada want to change Canada?  Turbans in the RCMP was our first mistake.  It turned a formerly secular national policeman into a policeman with a visible religious viewpoint.  Now there's a push for "Shariah law" in Ontario, despite the fact that we've had a perfectly good legal system in this country for hundreds of years.  This week we learned that people apparently don't have to show their faces when they go through airport security.  (They already don't at polling stations when they vote.)  Seems to me that Canadian society is being fundamentally altered in the name of religious freedom.  We need some common sense here.  We need to distinguish between the necessary progress of human rights, religious freedoms, etc., and those changes which fundamentally alter what made Canada so popular with immigrants in the first place.  If non-conforming immigrants overwhelm our political structure either through sheer numbers or via birth rate, you can bet that we risk allowing Canada to degenerate into just the sort of place these folks wanted to escape from.  All we're doing is setting the stage for future friction between different ethnic groups who bring their "old country" habits and hatreds with them.  Immigrants can honour their culture all they want but must be Canadians first.  This country is in the best financial and political shape in the modern world, and yet I fear for its future.  I fear that the ethnic strife which is occurring in European nations as we speak is on the horizon in Canada.  It's too late to adopt the "melting pot" strategy of the U.S. rather than the "cultural mosaic" crap of our past Liberal governments, but surely we can draw the line at changing our national institutions for the sake of everyone - especially new immigrants.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

If You Love it, Don't Change It, Part 1

Why do recent immigrants insist on changing Canada, when they obviously think it's a better place to be than where they came from?  My in-laws are immigrants from eastern Europe.  Kinder, harder-working people you cannot find.  They arrived in 1950 basically with the shirts on their backs, sponsored by a usurious aunt who treated them as indentured for two years before considering their obligation satisfied.  To say that they adapted well to Canadian society is an understatement despite no English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, no subsidization, no handouts, no immigration lawyers, no help whatsoever.  Sink or swim.  They worked in the factory, did carpentry on the side, and put a down payment on a farm.  Seven years later it was paid off in full.  The factory job lasted forty years, and the farm was sold when the kids - all post-secondary educated - preferred their jobs in the city.  Today they shudder at the demands immigrants make on our government and society in general.  (They also can't stomach able-bodied people, especially young people, routinely going to the food bank for handouts.)  They shake their heads at government waste.  They never took an agricultural subsidy, let alone lobbied for one.  In good years they saved their money in case the next years weren't good.  In short, they have contributed much to their new country, asked for nothing in return, and damn sure didn't expect to change Canada to suit them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Microsomal Enzyme System (MES) - Use it or Lose it

With summer vacation coming up I'm wondering just how fit my MES is.  Responsible for detoxifying lots of stuff, including my favorite Lemon Hart & Sons rum (original supplier to the British Navy, dating back to the 18th century), your Microsomal Enzyme System resides in the smooth-surfaced endoplasmic reticulum of the liver - as opposed to the rough-surfaced endoplasmic reticulum which is primarily engaged in enzymatic protein synthesis.  Your MES is a sort of "use it or lose it" part of the body.  Unless occasionally stimulated, it atrophies and becomes useless.  (Need I say get your mind out of the gutter, once again.)  Your MES may partially explain why almost all centenarians claim that their longevity is the result of exercise, lots of veggies and a wee nip of spirits every day.  Hepatic health is important therefore, and not only to us who occasionally imbibe.  Of course, you don't want to overwhelm your liver or you may also expire prematurely via cirrhosis.  The critical point then, is to stimulate, but not over- or under-stimulate your MES.  Hmmm ... hope I've got just the right medicinal intake level ... don't want to err on the low side ... more fun to err on the upside ... hmmm

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bear Risk vs. Mosquito Risk

We have bears and other critters pass our way regularly - so regularly that we have taken to carrying pepper spray whenever we work outdoors, and keep a bear gun nearby.  That having been said, we've never had to shoot any predator, four-legged (or two-) in thirty-plus years out here.  But lately, truth be told, I'm more worried about mosquitoes than furry forest beasts.  There were 720 West Nile cases in the U.S in 2009, and 32 deaths.  In Canada in 2009 we had 32 confirmed clinical cases and no deaths.  (Neither country reports the number of people left with permanent neurological problems however.)  This compares with Stephen Herrero's data which states an average of 2.9 bear attacks per year for each country.in the 1990s.  (So far 2000-2010 stats are 2.7 attacks per country per year and likely to rise to 2.9 due to several recent highly-publicized maulings.)  According to Alberta Health's fightthebite.info site, 1 in 5 who become infected with West Nile virus by a mosquito will become ill and "a very few" of those will progress to the neurological syndrome, but 50% of those who do will be left with long-term neurological effects.  Okay, so the risk of a mosquito attack resulting permanent debilitation is less than that of a bear attack, but you only need to get attacked by Yogi once - how many mosquito bites did you get golfing or camping last weekend?