Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yeah, that would be it….

Every so often I get the desire to read some mind-numbing pulp fiction for a change. This time I picked up Terminal Freeze, by Lincoln Child. I had never read anything of his so I thought it worth a try.

The general premise is that a team of researchers discovers an ancient cat-like animal embedded in the northern ice. The block of ice containing the animal is cut out and stored in a locked wooden vault, to be shipped south. The cat is stolen from the vault by way of a hole cut in the bottom of the container. One of the researchers determines that the hole was cut from the inside and not the outside, leading to this dialogue:

Marshall glanced at Faraday. “You know what this means?”

Faraday nodded. “It means whoever stole the cat knew the combination to the vault.”

Child must be an Unger fan.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fox News?

With all the brouhaha over the recent Fox News Red Eye segment, this seemed timely.

Fox stupid

(Source: Page-A-Day Calendar, March 25, 2009)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No one gets out alive

It’s been a couple of years, so time again for one of my favourite rants.

Grilled_SteakIn today’s Ottawa Citizen  the lead sentence in a story about the health risks associated with eating too much red meat states, “Eating large amounts of red or processed meat increases the risk of dying.” Later on the reporter says that people who “eat about four ounces of red meat per day … had a higher risk for overall death.” Even the study’s author, a scientist who should know better, claimed that “the consumption of red and processed meat was associated with a modest increase in total mortality.”

Since the mortality rate for the human species is, as far as we know, 100%, that would be an increase to … what? 105% of all people will die? 110%?

Now obviously that’s not what the study’s authors intended. Clearly diet can affect longevity, and it can be a determining factor for disease and eventually the cause of death, but diet choices will never change your “risk of dying”.

I just wish that they’d get it right for once. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Conservatives help you pay less tax.

Pay less taxIt’s true. And to prove it, I got this handy-dandy 14-page guide to tax savings in the mail today, complements of Cheryl Gallant, one of the more useless Con backbenchers on the Hill.

Basically it’s more Conservative Party propaganda touting their “Tax Cuts for Everyone” and “Tax Cuts for Hard Working People”. Every page assures us that “Families save with Conservatives” and lists as tax cuts such items as: medical expenses, child care expenses, GST tax credit, capital cost allowance for farmers, education tax credit, and other tax policies that were in place years before the Cons took power. Well it’s not the first, and won’t be the last, time they take credit for the work of others.

Calls in to Gallant’s constituency office asking if this was funded by the Party or by the Government have not been returned.


We awaken to clear blue skies. Even at 7 AM the sun warms the room and holds the promise of a beautiful spring day.

But those are simply appearances, wishes. The actual temperature outside is –10, driven to –20 with the chill of a brisk north wind. Snow remains deep on the gardens, and ice on the shaded parts of the driveway. But for the bitterness of the wind, we could still be skating on the lake.

It has been this way for days. Spring continues to tease and tempt, but so far has failed to deliver the goods. Discouraging, to say the least, for those of us suffering the symptoms of spring fever.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We are all connected

Oka photoIn 1990, a young news photographer, Tom Hanson, was covering the Oka Crisis in Quebec when he took this photo. The subject was Richard Nicholas, a Mohawk warrior waving his rifle while standing atop an overturned Sûreté du Québec police van. The two men never met.

On March 10, Tom Hanson, aged 41, collapsed while playing hockey in Ottawa and died shortly after. That very same day, Richard Nicholas, also aged 41, died in a motor vehicle accident in Quebec.

We are all connected in ways impossible to fathom, and last Tuesday one such connection was shattered by tragedy, 19 years after two very different men briefly crossed paths.

Photo: Tom Hanson

Sunday, March 15, 2009

One man’s whoopee cushion…

As reported here, the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean is in the grips of a religious fervour over a wrinkled seat cushion.

THOUSANDS of people have flocked to a Roman Catholic church on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion after believers said they saw the "face of Christ" in the pleats of a church cushion.

Antoinette, an 82-year-old parishioner, said the face was a "divine phenomenon" as tears welled up her eyes.

"This church is a holy site," added Lise-May, another worshipper.

"This is not a miracle, it's a sign of God," said parish priest Daniel Gavard.

No comment from the person who was most recently sitting on the “face of Christ” however.


MosquitoAnyone who has been kept awake by that sound at night will appreciate this story in The Sunday Times.

AMERICAN scientists are making a ray gun to kill mosquitoes. Using technology developed under the Star Wars anti-missile programme, the zapper is being built in Seattle where astrophysicists have created a laser that locks onto airborne insects.

The laser – dubbed a weapon of mosquito destruction (WMD) – has been designed with the help of Lowell Wood, one of the astrophysicists who worked on the original Star Wars plan to shield America from nuclear attack.

The WMD laser works by detecting the audio frequency created by the beating of mosquito wings. A computer triggers the laser beam, the mosquito’s wings are burnt off and its smoking carcass falls to the ground. “

Sounds great, right? Especially the bit, “its smoking carcass falls to the ground.” The mere thought of being able to fry the little bastards brings a flutter of joy to the heart as mosquito season approaches.

But is this a realistic solution to a serious problem? Who will pay for these outrageously expensive (because you know they will be) high-tech fly swatters controlled by a computer probably running Microsoft Vista? (Bill Gates is backing the research.) How will they be powered in the villages of darkest Africa? Who will maintain them and keep the hackers at bay and avoiding the blue screen of death? What will happen to the birds and bats that depend on mosquitoes for their food if the populations are decimated or seriously reduced? What happens if the mosquito is sitting in the tip of your nose when the laser locks on?

There is no doubt malaria is a huge problem, especially since the banning of DDT, but there is a very good, low-tech solution out there that has far fewer unintended consequences – the mosquito bednet. For a mere $10 (3 latte’s) you can protect one or more children for up to 5 years. Check it out here, at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring is come?

Like the person who believes an empty bank account means the end of the month is near, I consider my rapidly disappearing woodpile to be an indicator of the imminent end of winter.

Since the temperature is stubbornly hovering around –10C (-22C with the wind chill), that does require somewhat of a leap of faith, but it’s not the only sign of spring.

Yesterday the doves were back from points south where they spend the coldest winter months. The chipmunks have come out of hibernation. The raccoons have broken into our screen porch for what will likely be the first time this year. And the wild turkeys have returned to our yard, as they do every spring.

But the one true, irrefutable, sign of spring? Hot cross buns are back on the shelves at the supermarket. Yum!

Hot_cross_buns Photo: Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stimulate this!

The President of Ford Canada, David Mondragon, has it absolutely right when he says that governments should be stimulating demand and not production.

The auto industry will not be salvaged by CAW or anyone else accepting a $7 an hour wage concession. To get serious, governments need to provide scrappage fees to get old vehicles off the road, offer deep tax breaks on new vehicle sales (starting with 0% GST, and provincial sales tax breaks), and other innovative ideas. How about tax-free RRSP withdrawals up to $20,000 to purchase a new or used vehicle?

To simply enable manufacturers to produce their vehicles more cheaply is nonsense. Parking lots full of dusty Impalas or Chargers will do no one any good. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wok racing

In keeping with the winter sports theme of late, I offer up … Wok Racing, in which seemingly normal people race down a bobsled run sitting in large woks. That’s right – Chinese cooking appliances – on a bobsled run!

For some reason, this seems to be particularly popular in Germany (insert your favourite stereotypical justification here), but you have to admire any sport for which preparation apparently involves consuming a few beers and having a smoke or two, all for medicinal reasons and to calm the nerves I’m sure.

Unfortunately this video has had the soundtrack disabled, but the subtitles make up for it.

Can bobsledding the Great Wall be far behind?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Skating’s version of cross-country skiing

With the recent warm weather skating on the lake is probably just a memory for another year. It was an exceptional year with 7 or 8 great days when the ice was smooth and there was little or no snow on the surface.

Wild iceBut as reported in the Ottawa  Citizen yesterday, skating this winter was not confined to lakes and rivers. Brian Anderson is a 60-year-old Osgoode resident who practices “wild ice” skating.

Wild ice is not what you would expect – ice hanging out with the cool gang, getting into the booze, and then melting away when the cops arrive – it’s naturally occurring ice that forms in farmers fields, ditches and creek beds during the thaw-freeze cycles typical of late winter and early spring.

As Anderson admits, some of the ice can be “pretty wild”, as corn stalks and clumps of earth poke through here and there, but it can also provide kilometres of natural skateway for the wild ice skating aficionado.

Just don’t wear your best skates.