Monday, February 28, 2011

No, really, you put it on your head

The lab came up with this new stuff. Smells bad, but we've gotta find a way to peddle it. Paint thinner? Rocket fuel? Weed killer?

Naw, I got it. Dandruff remover. Yeah, that's it.

Thanks to The Fiche Tank.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• If there are 20 or more people in a room, chances are two of them will share the same birthday.

• A third of all Russians thinks the sun revolves around the earth.

• When you listen to music that moves you, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical also released by sex, drugs, gambling, and delicious food.

• The latest breakthrough in adhesives emulates gecko toe hairs.

• Worldwide, more older adults are finding love online. reports that 22% of its members are over age 50.

Vulture restaurants have been established in India, Pakistan, Nepal and South Africa.
How about that?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The income chasm

We hear a lot about the widening gap between rich and poor, but this infographic shows the astounding difference in average income for top earners vs. 90% of the U.S. population. Whoa!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A man with no enemies

Toward the end of the Sunday service, the Minister asked, "How many of you have forgiven your enemies?"

80% held up their hands.

The Minister then repeated his question. All responded this time, except one man, an avid golfer named Walter Barnes, who attended church only when the weather was bad.

"Mr. Barnes, it's obviously not a good morning for golf. It's good to see you here today. Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?"

"I don't have any," he replied gruffly.

"Mr. Barnes, that is very unusual. How old are you?"

"Ninety-eight," he replied. The congregation stood up and clapped their hands.

"Oh, Mr. Barnes, would you please come down in front and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years and not have an enemy in the world?"

The old golfer tottered down the aisle, stopped in front of the pulpit, turned around, faced the congregation, and said simply, "I outlived all the sons of bitches”
[Author Unknown]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where the smart people are

When Intel's Howard High says, "We go where the smart people are," and predicts that the majority of his company's jobs will move overseas in the next decade, you know there's a major shift underway.

Some say, "Just let the market take care of it. The law of supply and demand will bring everything into equilibrium, eventually." I've been known to talk this way, myself.

But sometimes, the market is part of the problem, not the solution.

Jobs are moving from North America to Asia and India because businesses make rational decisions, despite all the job creation programs and tax incentives that politicians can dream up.

Until recently, the impact of jobs moving offshore was mostly felt by wage earners at the bottom of the pay scale, and elites could turn a blind eye. Now the high value, specialized, jobs are following the low skill manufacturing and call centre jobs, because those countries are now competing on brains as well as wage levels.

It is slowly dawning that the success of North American companies no longer ensures job growth here at home. In fact, the reverse is now true, as the smartest businesses will move engineering and design functions, as well as assembly line jobs, out of North America in order to be more profitable and grow.

Foreign students, raised in a culture of academic achievement, are winning the international jobs competition. They study hard and are driven to excel. It's expected by their parents, who often deprive themselves to send their kids to the top Canadian and American universities. They are the kind of thinkers needed by companies to create the next generation of products, and now they are returning home rather than staying here after graduation.

Our self-absorbed, homegrown kids, mollycoddled by parents and teachers in an era that prizes self esteem and popularity more than effort and accomplishment, are losing the contest. That means our economies are falling behind those of hard chargers like China, India, Korea, and Singapore.

As sure as night follows day, their standards of living will rise as ours decline.

What can we do?

There is no quick fix, but education is at the heart of it. Governments, educators, and parents must get back to recognizing and encouraging academic achievement, investing in education, setting high national standards, and ensuring that all students from kindergarten to grad school understand that life is a competition.

And as we enter a period of deficit reduction, this is one area we must not short change.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Today, we're two

Yep, this blog has now entered the terrible twos, so expect even more temper tantrums and loud protests than before.

A girl's best friend

Friday, February 18, 2011

Technology slumbers on

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Twenty-eight years of expansion

No surprises here, but interesting nonetheless. Despite a billion New Years resolutions, despite Weight Watchers, despite "lite" and "fat-free," despite the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the Grapefruit diet, and a thousand more, we are ample, big, bulky, beefy, blimpy, burly, corpulent, fat, fleshy, heavy, hefty, huge, hulking, husky, large, lusty, massive, obese, outsize, overblown, overfed, overstuffed, plump, porcine, portly, pudgy, roly-poly, rotund, stout, tubby, upholstered, weighty, and well-padded.

Click here for the animated original.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thumbs up!

[Source unknown]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Waiting for the snap

Living standards decline while the privileged behave as though it's business as usual, feeling entitled to an affluent lifestyle by virtue of their education, hard work, and contributions to society.

This describes Japan, which many Japanese feel is a broken system. Its economy imploded in 1989 following an "asset bubble." Since then growth has been almost undetectable, and the economy actually shrank by 1.2% in 2008, and by 5.0% in 2009.

That's more than 20 years of hard times for regular folks in Japan.

Does this sound familiar? The U.S. went through a real estate bubble that popped in 2005, house prices have not yet hit bottom, and millions have been thrown out of their homes. As in Japan, widespread unemployment resulted. The ripple effect spread through the Americas and Europe.

All this is known.

How long will people put up with this in Japan, in the United States, in Canada?

Globally, unemployment is at record highs, and the income gap between rich and poor is widening in most developed countries.

I was told today that it is not unusual, in Canada, for an employer to receive 1,000 applications in response to a job ad.

I was surprised, because I am privileged, and all of this is mostly invisible to me. I know there is high unemployment. I see the numbers reported in the news.

But, 1,000 applications to one job ad!

Meanwhile, spending on luxury goods is up, according to a recent news item.

How long can this continue before something snaps?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 11, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• How long your parents lived does not affect how long you will live. Instead, it is how you live your life that determines how old you will get, according to research from the University of Gothenburg.

• Daphnia pulex, a tiny, near-microscopic water flea, has more genes than you. While the average human has about 20,000 to 25,000 genes, the flea has 31,000.

• Forty per cent of Americans do not believe in evolution, according to a Gallup poll.

• For thousands of years, grapes have not been breeding, and this is bad news for wine lovers.

• In the sports that best measure athleticism, like track and field, athletic performance has peaked, says a research specialist at the Institute for Biomedical Research and Sports Epidemiology in Paris. He says,“We’re reaching our biological limits.”

• When escaping from a burglary gone bad, you should be sure to take along your cellphone.
How about that?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thingamabobs and whatchamacallits

Sent along by Ingrid:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Internet regime change overdue in Canada

What is with the CRTC?

In an era when communications infrastructure is recognized by most as essential for Canada's competitiveness, the organization that regulates it seems committed to supporting an oligopoly that flourishes in the absence of competition.

Its latest major blunder was the decision to allow useage-based billing, an invention of Bell Canada that effectively puts a meter on your internet account, and would put your downloading charges further into the stratosphere relative to those charged in other countries.

With the internet becoming the way videos, movies, and television are delivered, such metering would be a license to print money for the current Bell/Telus/Rogers (BTR) triumvirate, and a way to choke off competitive threats like Netflix. Do you suppose it's just coincidence that Bell owns CTV, and Rogers is pushing it's On Demand online video service?

It's not that we're currently being undercharged. We already pay about twice as much as Americans, four times as much as the French, 14 times as much as the Koreans, and 24 times as much as the Japanese.

Responding to public outrage, and derisive catcalls from domestic and foreign commentators, the government slapped the CRTC's wrist and suggested a rethink. (Send your concerns to the CRTC here.)

But this is just the latest heavy-handed, bureaucratic, decision from this federal agency. Its apparent commitment to restricting competition is a brake on the kind of innovation that fuels economies at a time when we need to be enabling the free flow of information.

The CRTC has applied a way of thinking from the age of railroads to the regulation of wireless communications. Rather than encouraging new startups, it blocks them on such grounds as insufficient Canadian ownership, effectively guaranteeing that BTR will continue to reap cellphone fees that are among the highest anywhere, without fear of being undercut by a strong competitor.

With a controlling orientation designed for overseeing broadcasters, and administering the Broadcasting Act that ensures sufficient Canadian content on radio and TV, the CRTC has proven itself unsuited to fostering a dynamic, growth-oriented information industry in Canada.

If we want true competition, fairly priced services, a proliferation of high tech startups, and a ready supply of the investment capital needed to sustain them, a new regulatory regime is needed for telecommunications and the internet.

Update: In November, 2010, BCE CEO George Cope pretty much admitted the real aim of useage based billing is profit growth, not fairness or reducing network congestion. He said, "as we see a growth in video usage on the internet, making sure we’re monetizing that for our shareholders through the bandwidth usage charges."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Enough already

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dealer inquiries invited

The Atlantic provinces have been hard hit by snow storms this winter, and it has been particularly difficult for older folks. Friend Clarence sent this photo from Nova Scotia. It's revolutionary downhome technology, the kind of innovative thinking that invented the bagpipes and Screech. It's the WalkerPlow. Note the convenient cane rest.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• This year we will experience 4 unusual dates.... 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11. Now, take the last two digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be THIS year and it will equal 111.

• A hundred paper airplanes are on their way from the edge of outer space.

• Volkswagen has developed a hybrid electric/diesel automobile that gets 0.9 L/100 km (261 mpg US).

• The Los Angeles Police Department is using predictive policing to anticipate when and where certain types of crimes will occur.

• A Portland, Oregon, bookstore is inviting customers to swap their "soulless" e-readers for their equivalent value in old-fashioned books.

• The robot writers are here.
How about that?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Drill bebé, drill

Perhaps you remember the Deepwater Horizon, the BP oil rig that detonated in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

That got attention from lawmakers, and it appeared unlikely that we would see new deep sea drilling in the region until the BP fiasco faded from memory, or energy needs became urgent.

Cuba has no such reservations. It has cut a deal with a Spanish company that will use Chinese equipment to drill an even deeper well just 50 miles from Florida.

As current U.S. law prohibits offshore drilling within 125 miles of the Florida coast, and a spill would reach those beaches in 3 days, one would expect the Americans to be addressing this with Cuba in stern and urgent language, but not so.

America has no diplomatic relations with the Cubans, and therefore no channel to discuss anything with them. Further, they have driven Cuba into the arms of the Spaniards by barring U.S. companies from doing business with Castro under their 45-year old economic embargo against the impoverished island.

Sticky wicket, what?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Did Philip cut the cheese?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Taking exception

It's interesting to see how perspective changes with geography. I'm in the U.S. for the winter, so am more exposed to American opinion than I am when in Canada.

Canadians often seem fixated on our national identity. The chattering class seems to be continuously handwringing over questions about who we are as a nation, our place in the world, changes in our geopolitical status, what others think of us, etc.

We think this is uniquely Canadian, but not so.

The equivalent American debate at the moment is about "exceptionalism."

Yes, the talking heads here are consumed with whether or not America is exceptional, which is to say whether it embodies unique qualities that make it the greatest country in the world.

Actually, the debate is not so much about whether the U.S. is exceptional (which everyone here seems to agree is the case), but on who is willing to say so.

John Boehner, the House Speaker, is happy to the use the word "exceptional" at every opportunity, and even shed a little tear for emphasis.

The President is accused of being more reluctant to use the word, and therefore is suspected of being less convinced of his country's exceptionalism than are others. His opponents, the Republicans, are sure that this is evidence of Mr. Obama's lack of patriotism and unsuitability for leadership.

The Prez seems to prefer the term "uniqueness," but this is far too lukewarm for red blooded flag-wavers.

Just to check, I looked for synonyms of "exceptional" in a thesaurus and found the following --- aberrant, abnormal, deviant, odd, peculiar, strange, unimaginable, and unthinkable.


Update: Interesting article here samples various viewpoints on American exceptionalism.