Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Organ Donors Hit The Road Again

Literally.  There will be at least 220 highway deaths on motorcycles in Canada this year.  (My son-in-law the paramedic - no shrinking violet himself (scuba enthusiast, backcountry hiker, etc.) - scrapes enough of them off the highway every year that he christened them "organ donors" a long time ago.  You couldn't pay him to own one himself.)  Sure I rode my cousin's Yamaha all one summer back when I was eighteen and had a blast doing so.  At eighteen all kids think they're immune to personal injury.  I also remember, as a younger kid, coming upon the scene of a motorcycle club disaster on a mountain highway.  Bikes and bodies were everywhere (two died as I recall) - all because of a single pothole!  The fact of the matter is, tooling down the highway on a machine instead of in a machine is just plain more dangerous.  Period.  Talk all you want about your "right to the road" - you can be right and still be dead, as the old saying goes.  A few years back I bought a sports car.  Although lots of fun for a few years, eventually it succumbed to practicality.  Now I notice a buddy of mine is thinking of getting rid of his Corvette.  Why?  Mostly because the thrill has been satisfied (he's had it five years), but also because he worries out loud about animals on the road.  Come to think of it, animals and motorcycles can't be a good mix either.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blackbeard's Short Career

Apparently a 3,000-lb. anchor believed to belong to the Queen Anne's Revenge - the ship of the infamous pirate Edward Teach (aka "Blackbeard") - has been recovered from the waters off the coast of North Carolina. "little is known about his early life. In 1716 he joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, a pirate who operated from the Caribbean island of New Providence. He quickly acquired his own ship, and from 1717 to 1718 became a renowned pirate. His cognomen, Blackbeard, was derived from his thick black beard and fearsome appearance; he was reported to have tied lit fuses under his hat to frighten his enemies. After parting company with Hornigold, Teach formed an alliance of pirates and with his cohort blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina. He successfully ransomed its inhabitants and then soon after, ran his ship aground on a sandbar near Beaufort, North Carolina ... the Governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood ... arranged for a party of soldiers and sailors to find and capture the pirate, which they did on 22 November 1718... A shrewd and calculating leader, Teach avoided the use of force, relying instead on his fearsome image to elicit the response he desired from those he robbed. Contrary to the modern-day picture of the traditional tyrannical pirate, he commanded his vessels with the permission of their crews and there are no known accounts of his ever having harmed or murdered those he held captive. He was romanticised after his death, and became the inspiration for a number of pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres."(Wiki) I'm amazed that the legendary Blackbeard forged such a reputation in a period of only 2 short years - must've been quite the character!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Prattle on the Sexes

I knew it.  We all knew it.  And now there's scientific proof.  A new UBC study concludes that women find happy men less sexually attractive.  Women are drawn to bad boys.  "In a series of studies, more than 1,000 men and women were shown hundreds of pictures of men and women smiling, showing pride and being ashamed.  The women said they were more sexually attracted to the men who looked proud and powerful or moody and ashamed, while men put the happy women at the top of their sexy list ... women may have seen smiling men as a signal of desperation ... or at least over-availability ... We were expecting the positive emotions to be most attractive. We kind of figured that male pride would be most attractive, however we didn't bank on male happiness being least attractive ... Beall said studies have long shown women are attracted to more powerful men, which would explain why pride was a factor.  He said there are also characteristics of shame that a lot of people forget about.  "Shame does show that you at least have an appreciation for the social norms," he said. "If you're a socially competent member of society, that could be seen as attractive."  But for men, pride was the lowest factor on the list of attractive traits for females ... [and the logical conclusion:] "if you are changing your online dating profile, you might think of not having a smiling photo if you're a male".  Nice guys finish last.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blahg? Tell Me!

In honour of OH2's 500th edition today, a new feature is being added: the ability for our readers to rate each "post", ie. the diatribe you are currently reading, on a scale of 1 to 3.  It's an effort to determine what you out there want to read about out here.  I want to know whether today's "always brief, never boring " missive is ... well, boring (blahg), mediocre (better), or right on the mark (best).  Not good, better, best.  More like pitiful, passable, perfect.  So go ahead, rate each day's post.  I can take it.  The results will show up somewhere I'm sure.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Texas Makes It Official

From Bloomberg News yesterday: "Western Swing, an amalgam of country fiddle tunes and jazz, now shares its official Texas status with the Mexican free-tailed bat, the state flying mammal since 1995; tortilla chips and salsa, the official snack since 2003; and the cast-iron Dutch oven, which became the state cooking implement in 2005.  Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, who introduced the Texas bill in March, chose Western Swing for what his resolution called the “foot-tapping tempo” heard “all across our state, with countless Texans repeating the time-honored steps that have been kicking up sawdust on Texas dance floors for generations.”  The music was popularized by groups such as "Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys".  And - we might add - Big Ray and Asleep At The Wheel!  Brings back memories of a night at The Longhorn on Macleod Trail ...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Most Interesting Man In The World 7

He is a healer of men, and - although not a spelunker - such an expert explorer of dark tunnels that he is invited afar to do so (and also occasionally to present his findings to learned societies thereon).  Sometimes I think it's as if we were separated at birth, even though he is a refugee from The Troubles and I only seem to look for them.  And a dedicated family man is he, admirably and unfailingly supporting five offspring.  The development of wind power usurped much of his spare time for a decade (and southern Alberta is the better for it) yet he modestly downplays his contribution thereto.  His passion was windsurfing as a younger man - these days travel, skiing, golf, and gourmet cooking occupy his spare time.  Scotch is his preferred poison, though he is not above Irish Whiskey in a pinch, and and he was weaned on Guinness.  Little known to most, he is a competitive swimmer of national stature - and a wannabe grease monkey, not scared to get a little grime under his fingernails attempting to make one good truck out of two or three or ...  Always impeccably dressed and carefully coiffed, he is yet sometimes found in nefarious company playing billiards between quaffs.  And he is an esteemed member of the illustrious BWW, thereby logically a fan of Asleep At The Wheel and late night greasyburgers in bowling alleys.  Who is he?  He is the most interesting man in the world!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Are You Russian?

I am always amazed when someone admits that they follow this space regularly.  I think most readers here must be family, friends of family, or friends and acquaintances of ours over the years, but the truth is I'll never know unless a signed comment is left or I'm emailed by one of you.  It's a bit of a strange feeling, really.  Because I am aware of some of my readers' names I suppose I am respectful of their views, but even then I am certain to upset some of them now and again with my occasional rants.  However, if there's one thing Google is good at (Blogger is a Google product), it's tracking statistics.  And since the inception of Out Here Too, readership by country is one of those stats that continually catches my eye.  Outside of the United States and Canada, the top ten countries my readers live in are: 3) the United Kingdom, 4) Japan, 5) Russia, and 6) Australia - before "gapping down" to Germany, Netherlands, China, and Brazil.  Now the UK and Japan I can understand (in the latter case you must be my beer buddies in Nagano reading and re-reading my series on the earthquake/tsunami after a few Kirin), but Russia placing ahead of Australia is a harder one to conjure.  Who in Russia is interested in this stuff, and why?  I know they're not big fans of Mormons, Muslims, or religion in general there - and they are big fans of democracy (the intelligentsia at least) and hockey - but there must be more to it than that.  Any suggestions?  Are you Russian?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Camping Until The Next Big Event

Harold Camping has come out of hiding (he took to a hotel to avoid the press) one day after the world didn't end as he had loudly predicted.  Imagine his surprise, "Ya mean I gotta pay for all that stuff from the mini-bar?  $4 for bottled water?  The end really is near!"  He has acknowledged that his second attempt calculations (he first predicted the world would end in 1994) were wrong, and that the actual Apocalypse will now take place all at once on October 21, 2011, rather than starting last Saturday and gathering steam thence.  He also intimated that there won't be such a widespread warning from him next time so write down the date, shut up and send money.  Having spent roughly $110 million of his followers' moolah on billboards and T-shirts advertising the Non-Big Event this time around, that's not a surprise.  (Betcha those T-shirts go on Ebay!  Get me one will ya?)  Some of his stupi-dupes even sold their houses, cashed in their retirement savings, and sold all their possessions to help publicize the N-BE, so I hope they don't get too many mosquito bites Camping in their pup tents this summer.  (Camping - why didn't I see that word association earlier?)  What we need is a "Chicken Little" law so we can lock up religious wackos making such ridiculous predictions instead of allowing them to foment nightmares in little kids' minds.  Especially mine.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Apocalypse Is Heaven Out Here

Wow, that was scary.  The world was supposed to end yesterday, so either it didn't happen or I was one of the 3% predicted to be swept to heaven (I knew it all along!) - and it looks and feels exactly like my place did back on earth!  As a matter of fact, maybe better!  The rain and cold of Friday turned into a gloriously warm, peaceful day out here.  Maybe this really is heaven!  (If not, it's certainly "heaven on earth" - but I already knew that when I was back there.  The "Jewel of the West" I always called it.)  I guess I'll have to jump in the F150 and tool over to the general store to see if I'm the only one who made it.  Hold it, maybe I can levitate over there now that I'm in heaven!  Nah, I think I'll drive just in case.  Hey maybe I'll get an unlimited free supply of unleaded up here!  Geez, cool.  (If you made it too, please make a comment below.)  I hope I'm not alone.  I haven't seen Gabriel at the Pearly Gates yet, let alone the Big Guy with the white beard and hairline like mine.  I guess that's later.
Five hours later: Still haven't seen a living soul out here on the acreage, but I got a text message from Mary in Florida, so parts of that state must have survived the rapture.  (Reminds me of the song by Debby Harry, right?  "those men from Mars, they're eating cars and now they're going to eat guitars...")  The TV is working too, just like back on earth.  Guess I'll watch the hockey game later today.  Maybe we get free beer and chips up here, who knows?  If any of you can read this back in apocalypseville, gimme a comment, eh?
Awhile later: Well, I had to get off the John Deere and come inside because of the thunder and lightning.  For a minute I thought it was heralding the arrival of the Big Guy (or perhaps that California preacher got the day wrong and the apocalypse was just starting).  But now it's raining like hell - ya wouldn't think it would rain up here.  Everything should be all leafy and green without rain.  Still haven't seen a living soul, though, so the apoca must've happened.
After the game:  Hey, I just went online and read the papers.  No apocalypse!  How could Harold be wrong (again)?  He's an engineer, begeesus!  Somebody give the guy a calculator or - even better - a straitjacket.  Doesn't he know that the Bible was written hundreds of years after the events it describes, that it includes some authors but excludes others, includes zero contemporary accounts, and that it has been heavily edited throughout?  Next time, Harold, you might do better calculating from Alice In Wonderland, a much more entertaining piece of fiction.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Who The Hell Is Jim Hillyer?

Living out here as we do we don't get a daily newspaper delivered to our door.  We get our news electronically (save for the venerable century-old Pincher Creek Echo, which these days is venerable only because it's a century old).  I suppose I could drive 3 miles to the country store to buy a newspaper every day, but I'm not even sure they carry newspapers other than the "weekend" editions - and even then they're usually the national fish-wrappers, not the stately (but thin) Lethbridge Herald.  Thus it was only this week that I learned of the controversial mystery man who now represents that fabled city of my birth in Parliament.  To say that the seat was safely large (and small) "c" Conservative is a vast understatement, ie. whoever wins the Conservative nomination automatically goes to Ottawa.  Thus the nomination has traditionally gone to a well-known farmer/lawyer/businessman who has paid his dues in the community over several decades to the extent that his/her name immediately registers with the voters.  Sort of an award for good service to the community.  Not this time, however.  The new man is a complete unknown.  My source inside the constituency association tells me that the Mormon faction of the party was determined to crown one of their own when incumbent Rick Casson retired, and carefully executed a plan of skulduggery to get their man the nomination.  Mr. Hillyer promptly shunned all interviews and public forums during the campaign to the extent that he was dubbed "The Man Who Wasn't There".  (Refreshingly, he has now given a 30 minute interview to the Mormon-owned radio station in Lethbridge.)  As the Calgary Herald put it: "Enter Hillyer, a 36-year-old Raymond man who garnered headlines throughout the election for going missing in action...Dozens of people decided to bring the forum to Hillyer last week and gathered outside his office to ask questions. Hillyer stayed away, but his campaign manager offered the disgruntled voters pizza...A local student group ramped up the intensity last week by questioning the veracity of Hillyer’s resume.  The students accused Hillyer of emphasizing his graduate education in campaign literature but not mentioning he studied at a non-accredited university.  Hillyer earned a master’s degree in political economy at George Wythe University in Cedar City, Utah, and also took PhD courses in constitutional law...[a long-time Conservative worker] said 'The Mormons have their own educational institutions and systems...'[don't get me started] ...'We’ve always voted Conservative,' said an insurance broker who voted on his lunch break. 'But if this guy is scared to talk to his constituents, what is he going to be like in Ottawa?'  Good question.  Lucky thing this didn't happen a few months earlier when my very sage father (a lifelong card-carrying Conservative, constituency board member, and secularist) was still alive or his words would have scorched the editorial pages.  As it is he's probably rolling in his grave.  Time to wake up, Southern Alberta.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Broadband Milestone?

According to Peter Svennson, a technology writer for AP, quoting a study released by Sandvine Inc., more bandwidth (30%) is now spent watching Netflix movies and online TV reruns during the peak evening hours than is spent web browsing (17%) or watching YouTube (11%).  This is despite the fact that only about 25% of homes subscribe to Netflix in the USA.  In other words, streaming video takes up a lot of bandwidth, and that's why there are proposals emerging in every jurisdiction to charge you for the bandwidth you use rather than the flat monthly fee you're paying now to your ISP.  (File-sharing and videoconferencing also eat up bandwidth, and combined with web surfing, formerly used the most capacity every evening.)  So what does this say about the average North American internet user?  To a curmudgeon it says that online surfing (let's call it "research") for news, best buys, and general information about that project you want to build or Aunt Martha's crooked toe is on the wane, while online time-wasting (okay, let's call it "relaxation") is up.  This shift in bandwidth use could even be another indicator of the dumbing-down of North Americans I suspect, if we only knew how the rest of the world uses their bandwidth during evening hours.  On the other hand, we sure enjoy our Netflix subscription - $7.95 a month for unlimited movies - unbeatable!    

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Of Hedgehogs and Market Seers

Michael Shermer's February 2011 article in Scientific American entitled "Financial Flimflam" reviews some already widely disseminated studies of Wall Street prognosticators that consistently show how "a dart-throwing chimpanzee" can predict future market moves just as well as the "experts".  Shermer believes Philip E. Tetlock may have discovered why Foxes Are Better Forecasters Than Hedgehogs.  "There was one significant factor in greater prediction success, however, and that was cognitive style: "foxes" who know a little about many things do better than "hedgehogs" who know a lot about one area of expertise."  Low scorers on predictions were those who know one big thing, aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains, display bristly impatience with those who "do not get it", and express considerable confidence that they are pretty proficient forecasters.  High scoring predictors were generalists who know a little about a wide variety of things (the proverbial "jack of all trades", no pun intended), are skeptical of grand schemes, see explanation and prediction not as deductive exercises but rather as exercises in "flexible ad hocery" that require stitching together diverse sources of information - and are rather diffident about their own forecasting prowess.  "Being deeply knowledgeable on one subject narrows focus and increases confidence but also blurs the value of dissenting views and transforms data collection into belief confirmation."  If so, why can't I - the ultimate generalist - ever predict anything?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Cost of Immigration

According to "Immigration and the Canadian Welfare State 2011", new research from the Fraser Institute:  "The study concludes that in the fiscal year 2005/06 immigrants on average received an excess of $6,051 in benefits over taxes paid. Depending on assumptions about the number of recent immigrants in Canada, the fiscal burden in that year is estimated to be between $23.6 billion and $16.3 billion. These estimates are not changed by the consideration of other alleged benefits brought by immigrants."  To many of us this is the first time anyone has put a number on something we have suspected for a long time: Canadian immigration policy is a money-losing proposition.  Yes, Canada needs immigrants to grow our economy, and, yes, all of us emigrated here from somewhere at sometime.  The difference is that today people might arrive with very little but are soon given many of the accoutrements of the average Canadian by our government.  (Let's remember here that "government", after all, is just a euphemism for you and I, the Canadian taxpayer.)  I have family who arrived after WWII with nothing but the shirts on their backs.  They had to be sponsored by a relative, had to have a job to come to, and there was no such thing as "immigrant support services".  They worked multiple back-breaking jobs, learned the language on their own, and have contributed mightily to this country in many ways - including paying taxes from day one.  Hmmm, taxes paid minus zero immigrant support services equals (you guessed it!) a profit for Canada.  Immigrants only cost us $16.3 billion (assuming the lower number) and that was back in 2005/06, eh?  And notice that not a word has been said about the social costs of unfettered immigration by the FI, or yours truly.  OMG, look what popped up in the National Post today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Getting to Know the New #1

Now that Osama Bin Laden has met his maker, it's time to get to know the new head of the snake that is Al Qaeda, the cerebral Egyptian-born doctor Ayman Al-Zawahri - just in case you see him at your next medical convention.  Whereas Bin Laden was the financier and figurehead of Al Qaeda, Al-Zawahri has always been the evilest of brains behind the operation.  Born into a family of scholars and doctors in Cairo in 1951, he developed an extreme interpretation of Islam, and was sentenced to death in absentia in 1999 for the 1997 Luxor Massacre of tourists.  (The attack succeeded in machine-gunning and hacking to death 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians, including "a five-year-old British child and four Japanese couples on their honeymoons".)  The attack so stunned and angered Egyptian society that Islamists even denied responsibility.  That's how brutal this guy is.  He is wanted by the U.S. in connection with the same-day bombings of three U.S. embassies in Africa.  Following the death of Bin Laden, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism Juan Zarate said Zawahiri would "clearly assume the mantle of leadership" of Al-Qaeda, but another senior U.S. administration official said that although he is likely to be the next leader, his authority is not "universally accepted" among Al-Qaeda's followers.  Zarate said Zawahri is more controversial and less charismatic than Bin Laden, and he is particularly harsh on the role of Muslim women.  Nice guy.  (Wikipedia)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Planking Can Be Dangerous

And I'm not talking about International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arrest this weekend for the attempted planking of a hotel chambermaid in New York before almost escaping on a plane to Paris dressed as an International Monetary Fund Managing Director.  From AAP: "The internet craze of "planking" has tipped over into tragedy with the death of a young man who plunged seven storeys from the balcony of a Brisbane apartment building.  Acton Beale, 20, is believed to be the first person killed while taking part in the fast-growing global fad, in which people have photos of themselves taken while lying face-down in a public place and post the results on the internet.  Mr. Beale fell to his death from the inner Brisbane apartment block in the early hours of Sunday morning, reportedly while attempting the stunt on the balcony railing."  Yet methinks the two terms may be related - given certain positional similarities and despite emerging into the popular lexicon fifty years apart.  Just goes to show you how many new terms today have "roots" in the '60s!  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Doomsday? Wake Me when it's Over

"One week till doomsday ..."caught my eye in the National Post yesterday.  Theoretically one week from today we will all be dead unless we happen to be of a certain religious sect, the world having come to an end next Saturday, May 21.  Yup, more religious wackos predicting another "end of days", "judgment day", or some such other garbage.  How boring.  How utterly ridiculous.  How sad.  Deluded idiotic Chicken Little's telling us the sky is going to fall (again).  And what happens to these crazies when their dire prediction doesn't come true time after time after time after time?  They will claim that their words were "misinterpreted", that they were somehow "misunderstood" - or that their god has heard their prayers and postponed Armageddon.  I don't know.  It's just all so tedious.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

... and they did last night.  Good company, good food, good libations, good fun, but why can't we ever just have a few quiet games of eight ball?  More tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Apologies to All

Apparently the people at "Blogger" don't realize that some blogs (including this one) get written and published every day.  Have a good one!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Black Bears Predatory? No Kidding.

From the Calgary Herald:  "North Americans killed by black bears over the last century overwhelmingly encountered a predatory male hunting for food rather than a female protecting her cubs, according to a new study from the University of Calgary.  The common belief that surprising a mother bear is the most dangerous encounter with bruins doesn’t hold true for black bears, according to professor emeritus Stephen Herrero, an expert in bear behaviour ... Herrero and his team analyzed the deaths of 63 people in 59 North American black bear incidents dating to 1900 - most of which occurred since 1960.  They determined that 88% of such cases involved a black bear exhibiting predatory behaviour, and 92% of those predatory black bears were males.  The study also found black bears that had attacked people once were more likely to attack again, larger parties of people were less likely to be charged, and available food and garbage may increase the likelihood of a serious strike ... Black bear males, Herrero said, are significantly larger than the females.  They will silently stalk prey and are able to subdue a human twice their size.  “Then they make a run at a person without ever making any noise,” he said ... He said there’s 900,000 black bears in North America, but only about 60,000 grizzlies. Grizzly bears have still killed twice as many people.As I've said before in this space, we don't need bears.  Switzerland used to be a wonderful place to visit because all the predators had been killed off and it was safe to graze your cattle - or go for a hike - in the high alpine meadows.  At least it was safe, now they're re-introducing wolves back into the Alps in an attempt to kill their tourism and livestock industries.  When will all this silly protection of wild predators end?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SETI Institute Closing Its Doors

Without major funding, probably donations from the wealthy "stars" of America, one of the neatest scientific efforts on the planet, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) will be forced into "hibernation" due to cuts in federal, state and local funding in California.  The Institute, part of UC Berkeley, caught the public's imagination when with the advent of the internet in the 1990's it asked everyday science buffs to allow SETI to use their home computers in off-hours to vastly increase the computing power needed to process data collected by the 42-dish Allen Telescope Array.  (He of Microsoft fame wrote a $30 million cheque to fund SETI in the early days - now there's philanthropism that actually accomplishes something!)  The array is part of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory near Mt. Shasta.  I know I signed up for a couple of years, and apparently about three million other people did too.  Every evening before I turned in I'd log onto the SETI website and go to bed counting little green men instead of sheep.  Funding for SETI has been cut over the years to 1/10th its original, but now it's reducing the staff to only 2 scientists - who will be charged with mothballing the facility and trying to protect it from environment threats "and vandalism".  The  mothballing comes at a critical juncture for the facility, as it was just preparing to re-orient the telescopes at about 50 promising newly-discovered planets in the cosmos. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is Japan Sunk?

Something I wondered about, but only found data on recently, is whether any part of Japan is higher or lower as a result of the March 11th earthquake.  Well, it turns out that the quake was so powerful it pulled the entire country out - and down - into the Pacific!  Some coastal towns which escaped the tsunami for one reason or another, now face regular flooding at high tide because of their new lower elevation or are cut off when the streets become impassable twice each day.  Sewage systems are then overwhelmed, and people watch sea creatures swimming down the street - only to be left stranded and dying with the seaweed and detritus when the tide recedes.  You see, the country's northern half sits on the North American tectonic plate and the mostly undersea Pacific tectonic plate usually slides under it, so Japan has been slowly migrating west.  But in March's catastrophe the fault line between the two plates actually ruptured instead of sliding.  The portion of the plate under Japan went lower as it slid toward the east!  (Some areas moved southeast roughly 5 meters while sinking a meter or so lower.)  Parts of the Tokyo, two hundred plus kilometers away, still moved up to 9 inches eastward.  In the northeast near the epicenter, concrete manholes supported by their underground pipes stick skyward out of the streets that used to cover them, and sunken power poles have left live wires dangerously low.  The twice daily flooding means that construction crews are hampered by water and dead blowfish.  This is the new reality in Japan - at least until the next Big One.  (AP)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Canadian Temperature Conversion Chart

With snow still in the backyard, the following seems appropriate!
      50° Fahrenheit (10° C):
      · Californians shiver uncontrollably.
      · Canadians plant gardens.
      35° Fahrenheit (1.6° C):
      · Italian Cars won't start.
      · Canadians drive with the windows down.
      32° Fahrenheit (0° C):
      · American water freezes.
      · Canadian water gets thicker.
      0° Fahrenheit (-17.9° C):
      · New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.
      · Canadians have the last cookout of the season.
      -60° Fahrenheit (-51° C):
      · Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
      · Canadian Girl Guides sell cookies door-to-door.
      -109.9° Fahrenheit (-78.5° C):
      · Carbon dioxide freezes into dry ice.
      · Canadians pull down their ear-flaps.
      -173° Fahrenheit (-114° C):
      · Ethyl alcohol freezes.
      · Canadians get frustrated when they can't thaw the keg.
      -459.67° Fahrenheit (-273.15° C):
      · Absolute zero; all atomic motion stops.
      · Canadians start saying "cold, eh?"
      -500° Fahrenheit (-295° C):
      · Hell freezes over.
      · The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Woman Awakes With a British Accent

From Snopes:  "TOLEDO, Ore., May 5 (UPI) - Experts said an Oregon woman who awoke from a dental surgery with a British-sounding accent is suffering from a rare condition known as foreign accent syndrome.  Karen Butler, 56, of Toledo said she awoke from dental impl ant surgery in 2009 with her speaking voice altered to a British-sounding accent with a bit of Transylvanian thrown in the mix, ABC News reported Thursday.  "I had just had surgery, so at first we assumed it was because of all of the swelling," Butler said. "But within a week the swelling went down and the accent stayed."  Dr. Ted Lowenkopf, a neurologist and medical director at Providence Stroke Center in Portland, Ore., said Butler has foreign accent syndrome, which is so rare only 60 confirmed cases have been documented around the world.  He said the condition usually follows a minor stroke and stems from a minor injury to the part of the brain responsible for language pattern and tone.  "Although we think it sounds like a British accent, if you had a language expert listening to her, they would say that's not an English accent," Lowenkopf said.  "It's sort of an amalgam of different-sounding speech that sounds like a foreign accent.  But it's not truly typical of any one foreign accent."  Butler said she takes the teasing from her friends and family in stride and the condition has actually been a boon to her social skills.  "I used to be painfully shy, and now there's always something to talk about," she said."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day

My mother having died twenty-one years ago means that Mother's Day has over the intervening years become more and more about honouring my wife, the mother of my children, than she who bore me six decades ago.  I feel extremely lucky on both counts, of course, but while it is easy to see every day how lucky my children and I are to love my wife, it gets a bit harder with time to remember all of my mother's graces, foibles, and idiosyncracies.  Of course there are "hard copy" memories; photo albums (lots of them), family recipes (some written in her hand) like her Christmas classic "hard sauce", portraits here and there - and her signature forever shows up unexpectedly inside book covers - but my memory of daily life with her fades a bit every year.  She died in mid-life of ovarian cancer, and thus really only knew our youngest child briefly, yet she was a wonderful grandmother just the same - the kind that insisted children run through the sprinkler in her backyard to escape the summer heat clad only in their birthday suits.  The kind that taught my very young son the basics of poker.  The kind you name your eldest daughter after.  Her disease robbed her of seeing her grandchildren blossom into adults she would have been exceedingly proud of (and of being a great-grandmother) but that's the way life is sometimes.  Enjoy your mother while you can.  I miss mine.         

Friday, May 6, 2011

If You Don't Want Our Oil ...

... from the Alberta tarsands, we'll just have to build a pipeline to the Pacific and sell it to someone who does!  As quoted in the Calgary Herald:  "U.S. President Barack Obama should stop sending mixed messages on oilsands and “sign the bloody order” approving the Keystone XL pipeline, Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert said Thursday.  "Frankly, I wish he’d get on with action,” Mr. Liepert said when asked to respond to remarks by Mr. Obama in Washington on Wednesday.  "I saw where he said they need to study the science. I don’t know what they’re studying. We could give him all the briefing he needs and it would take him 15 minutes to read about it, so I just wish he’d sign the bloody order and get on with it.”  [Obama's] remarks came on the heels of an editorial in the New York Times that urged the U.S. government to block TransCanada Corp.’s $7-billion project, designed to transport more than half a million barrels a day of primarily oilsands crude to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.  Approval has been delayed since last July, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked the State Department to conduct a supplemental environmental impact study to address concerns about pipeline safety and the impact on climate change of oilsands production.  The State Department, which has the authority to issue or deny a presidential permit for construction of the pipeline because it crosses an international boundary, last month ordered the new study and has announced a period of public comment this spring.  Mr. Liepert said approval of the pipeline is critical for Alberta’s growing oilsands industry."  And just as critical for a dependable supply of oil to the U.S. in the uncertain times ahead.  Mr. Obama, you made a courageous decision last weekend and it paid off - voters respect a man who can make a controversial decision under pressure for the good of his country and stick to it.  On this one, all you really need to know is in a book called Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands so I suggest you read it this weekend.  And then call Ron Liepert before he phones China.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Canada's Most Wanted

All this talk of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted criminals in the wake of Osama Bin Laden's demise made me wonder who's on Canada's Most Wanted list.  In fact, there are several such lists, but I started with the Wanted By the RCMP list.  Only two terrorists there but lots of murderers, gangbangers and assorted other creeps.  The vast majority are home-grown (correction; naturalized) Canadians despite the fact our country has often been viewed by the U.S. as a good hiding place for their criminals - even though the Mounties' claim that they "always get their man".  (Our beloved national police force has taken a few hits lately with scandals in its upper echelons but hopefully it remains an effective crime-fighting force on the ground.  At least they seem to be able to nab elderly priests importing child pornography.)  Perusing the list makes one realize just how thin the veneer of civilization is in our society, because the list is ... long, to say the least, and these are just the "big fish".  The other impressions I got from reading the bios of these guys is that: a) they're mostly dangerous to those of their own ilk, and b) we could eliminate three-quarters of them by putting a razor-wire ten-foot chain-link fence around Toronto.  Could it be that the long-term salvation of Tee-O will be Stephen Harper's crime bills?  Could it be that Torontonians sick of crime were a force in the election?  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bullets Too Good For Bin Laden

The news this week that Osama Bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy Seals in Pakistan is now being fleshed out, detail by grisly detail.  Only in a western democracy does this happen of course - the public's "right to know" invoked by the media to titillate viewers and sell newspapers, as well as head off conspiracy theorists who inevitably assert a cover-up.  By the time all the details are finally out in the light of day the team of Navy Seals will be lucky if their full names and addresses aren't made public.  The admittedly strange decision to bury the body at sea is bound to raise eyebrows, the kind of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" action that was probably as much about trying to deny a shrine for his twisted followers as it was to observe Muslim customs.  (Alas, the compound where he was killed will probably become that shrine anyway.)  I don't really care how he died or how his body was dealt with as long as it was sufficiently documented and DNA-proven.  Lock up the details and pictures as "classified" for 25 years and tell the prying eyes of the press to go to hell, I say.  However he died, bullets were too good for him.  He should have died slowly - choking on the dust from a collapsing skyscraper, with the weight slowly crushing him, and flames licking at his feet - the way nearly 3000 innocent persons died on September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Canada Elects Conservative Majority!

The final tally: Conservatives 167, Socialists 102, Adscammers 34, Separatists 4, Greenies 1.  The real story of Election 2011 yesterday was not the decimation of the Liberal Party of Canada and leader Michael Ignatieff's loss of his own seat.  The guy is an academic who means well (and gave a helluva parting speech) but couldn't connect with the man on the street after being parachuted in from Harvard and annointed by the party brass before he really knew what he was getting into.  (Face it, the Liberals have been shackled with the Adscam scandal by a public with a long memory - and divided by Chretien's stab-in-the-back to his anglophone successor, Paul Martin - a really decent man.  My prediction?  Now exposed as closet lefties, they'll join the NDP or evaporate into the ether.)  And the real story of the election was not that Green partier Elizabeth May can (and now will) out-shriek all 34 Liberals in parliament.  The real story of the election was not the annihilation of the Bloc Quebecois, the result of too much righteous negativity on the part of leader Gilles Duceppe (another leader who lost his seat - and hopefully that ill-fitting suit - last night) and a growing immigrant population that worked hard to get to Canada, works hard now that they're here, and showed they want to stay in Canada.  (Don't fear for the demise of separatism, however - those spoiled malcontents of Confederation will rear their FLQ heads in Quebec's next provincial election.  Yes, Quebec is a province - not a "nation", Gilles.)  And the real story of Election 2011 was not the ascension of the socialist NDP to Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition status by flirting dangerously with said separatist elements and promising dangerously to spend money the country can't afford.  (So convincing was Jack Lay It On's dangerous ruse, that Ruth Ellen Brosseau actually did win that francophone seat in Quebec even though she doesn't speak French, doesn't live there, and spent part of her campaign in Las Vegas as previously noted in this space.)  With neophyte rabble and wing-nuts like that elected under false pretenses for a caucus, Jacko will have his hands full even after the Libs come begging to get their orange t-shirts (they'll get them but with strings attached, I can assure you).   No, folks, the real story of Election 2011 is that the Conservatives went from 143 seats to 167seats and will form a well-deserved majority government.   Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty's careful stewardship of our ship of state through the treacherous waters of the financial meltdown and minority mayhem has been recognized by the Canadian electorate - and justly rewarded.  Steady as she goes, said Canada last night.  The budget that the opposition didn't bother to read will be passed - as will the omnibus crime bill long held up by the opposition, human-trafficking will be halted, public funding of political parties will cease, rapists/pedophiles/murderers will move into halfway houses across the street from the Parole Board members and judges that release them, and Canada will retain it's top-ranking with the IMF.  Like it or not, fellow Canadians, Canada will remain a great place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.  And now, let's hear from the Auditor-General.    

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thoughts on Osama Bin Laden's Death

The death of Osama Bin Laden yesterday in a fire-fight at the hands of American operatives in Pakistan is certainly to be celebrated, but has taken way too long and cost way too much, both in human and financial terms.  How can the world's most powerful military first of all let the world's most-wanted man slip out of eastern Afghanistan, and then take ten years to find and kill him?  In the interim, the collateral damage of this manhunt has been massive: thousands of coalition soldiers have died and the Bush Gang needlessly invaded Iraq over fictitious WMD's - no doubt spawning tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of wannabe OBL's there and elsewhere around the world.  Is the world a safer place now that he's dead?  I doubt it.  There will be terrorist repercussions over the "martyrdom" of this mass murderer.  Islamic fundamentalism isn't going away.  Europe is an Islamic battleground already.  The madrassas that pass for schools, and the radical Imams that pass for holy men aren't going away.  The ignorant tribalism and chaos that is Muslim nuclear-armed Pakistan, a virtual failed state, continues.  Canadian citizens with veiled faces will turn up and vote in today's election unchallenged.  Osama Bin Laden has succeeded in making fools of us in the West.  Don't be one of them, this isn't over by a long shot.              

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Oui, un peu."

English translation: "Yes, a little."  So said the female NDP candidate to the reporter who asked her: a) if she would come on his French language radio show in the virtually 100% francophone riding in which she is running for election ("Non", was the answer to that one), and then b) if she spoke French.  Of course that was after Ruth Ellen Brosseau, running in the Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinong√©, got back from a Las Vegas sojourn in the middle of the campaign.  In other words, she can/can't (votre choix, et merci Madame Vaucher) speak the language of her constituents or keep her calendar straight.  Yet she actually has a chance of being washed into Parliament in an NDP wave.  (Whereupon she should probably actually move to the riding from Ottawa, where she lives now.  It's called French Immersion, Ruthie.)  But this is only one of the "strong" candidates the NDP is running across the country.  Jack Lay It On told reporters, “Our team is ready to work hard and demonstrate that each and every day as they’re campaigning ...”  Right.  Like the NDP candidate from Ajax-Pickering who spent the first week of the current stump at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.  (Give the guy a break, you say, he really wasn't expecting to get elected after all, so why ruin a great holiday?)  Or Dennis Perrier, the NDP candidate from Medicine Hat who's electioneering to bring socialism to power so the government can “pool tax money for the benefit of all.”  There's a new concept!  Where does the NDP get these guys, Butch?  Dave Nickle, the party’s candidate in Peterborough, ON, wants Canadian soldiers out of Afghanistan.  He claims they’re not fighting the Taliban, digging water wells, or protecting Afghan schoolgirls, but guarding a pipeline for the U.S.  Wacko.  Then there's David Laird (Burlington, ON) who knows who the real terrorists are: "the secret government operating in the U.S.A.”  Secret government?  Really, you mean not the regular government operating in the U.S.A.?  Hey, maybe Jack Lay It On will name Laird to be our Foreign Minister or let him lord over our intelligence agency - except it seems he doesn't have any, intelligence that is.  Who are these guys, Sundance?  And then there's NDP candidate James McLaren, who attempted to crack a joke about the Jewish Passover.  “Is that the month when Jewish people like to buy Japanese cars?”  (Nisan being a month in the Jewish calendar.)  A prime candidate for Human Rights czar I'd say!  You should have heard the peals of laughter - not!  And then there are all those university students who thought they'd run for the NDP because it would look good on their curriculum vitae.  Now they may have to choose between that great summer job they had lined up to work on their tan, and moving to Ottawa of all places for that inside job they never really thought would happen when Jack called them.  "But what about my third year of college?"  Don't worry Mr. Poli Sci, you'll be back in school before you know it, trust me!