Monday, December 31, 2012

Bambi and Thumper

Taken in an Alberta backyard.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Signs of the times

• The cat sanctuary in Ottawa, a hold-over from the days when cats worked as mousers on Parliament Hill, was once home to as many as 30 strays, but is now down to just four feline residents as chemical-based rodent control methods put the cats out of work.

New software tells business owners the time each employee arrived, their total productive time for the day, their overall efficiency, and their ranking relative to other employees. The idea is to encourage workers to compete for a higher ranking in order to boost productivity, but employees may not warm to the idea of being monitored.

• Ontario and Quebec ski resorts may benefit from global warming, as more than half of their competitors in the U.S. northeast may become unviable by 2039, according to a University of Waterloo study to be published next year.

• More than 7,400 Canada Post employees, including 23 members of the senior management team, received performance bonuses for their work last year, even though the crown corporation lost $327 million.

• An Ontario teacher warned her unruly students that they would “spend time with a pedophile,” and if their behaviour got worse it “would be without Vaseline.”

• European food safety officials have notified Canadian slaughterhouses that the meat of American racehorses, killed and packed in Canada for the European market, is too toxic for human consumption because the animals have been repeatedly injected with drugs to keep them racing. [Source: New York Times]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How to wrap a gift

[Thanks to Jim in Vancouver for sending this along.]

[Can't see the video? Click here.]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The 12 days of Christmas explained

You may have wondered about that strange carol involving lords-a-leaping and French hens. I know that I have.

Well here's the story. It arrived yesterday, and I have no reason to doubt its veracity. If you know otherwise, please advise.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. That is a very long time.

During that period, someone wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning --- the surface meaning,
plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church.

Each element in the carol has a code word with religious significance that the children could remember:
• The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

•The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

• The three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

• The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

• The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

• The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

• Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit --- Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

• The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

• Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,  Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

• The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

• The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

• The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
Isn't that a wonderful explanation. I will enjoy that carol so much more in future.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to all

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas eve story

Can't see video? Click here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Signs of the times

• Sorry Santa, but no smoke breaks for you on this year's toy delivery trip. Expunged from a new version of the classic 'Twas the night before Christmas are the lines
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath
There is concern that the big guy's nicotine habit sends the wrong signal to his young fans.

• A brain pacemaker is currently in trials as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. The device provides deep brain stimulation, and has been used with positive effect in thousands of people with Parkinson’s disease.

• Bangladesh is the world's second leading apparel exporter after China.

• The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that, thanks to the growth in shale oil production, the U.S. could become the number one producer of oil by 2017, surpassing current leaders Saudi Arabia and Russia

• Skydiving clubs apparently don't bother to check whether their members have landed safely. This week, it was discovered that the body of a Dutch skydiver, whose parachute didn't open, lay undetected in a field for more than a week.

• A poll conducted for the Association of Canadian Studies, finds that the more time francophones spend with their anglophone neighbours, the less they worry about losing their first language.

• Fashion designer Pierre Cardin turned 90 this summer.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beyond words

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Entertainment today

TV has changed a lot in the past few decades.

We used to have CBC, CTV, and the big three from the states.

The formula was pretty standard. During the day, you had the soap operas and the commercials for Ginsu knives and Chop-o-matics, followed by the after-school programs --- Howdy Doody and American Bandstand.

The six o'clock news kicked off the adult programming. The term "adult programming" had a different meaning then than it does today --- mostly cowboy dramas, sitcoms, and late night talk shows.

Then the specialty channels and reality TV started appearing, and now we have some very weird choices, such as:
The Pawnshop and Pickers Channel: This is mostly about professional wheeler-dealers beating up on amateurs to steal their rusty old stuff at bottom dollar by telling them how worthless it is, and then turning around and selling the same stuff for big bucks to rich folk who are furnishing their country estates. Oddly, this is sort of entertaining.

The Angry White Men Channel: On this channel, debates are won by those who shout the loudest and make the most outrageous claims. The top-rated shows feature hosts who browbeat their guests into submission by screaming insults at them, while providing them with no opportunity for rebuttal. It beats me how they find guests willing to sacrifice themselves.

The Guys And Their Toys Channel: Different teams build pricey motorbikes and custom cars, and they always just get it done, despite numerous setbacks and stupid mistakes, by the absolute deadlines set by the rich guys who are paying the bills. There is a lot of shouting, but not as much as on The Angry White Men Channel.

The Spaceheads Channel: The shows on this channel always feature the same five nutballs with strange haircuts who see images of little men from outer space carved on Mayan ruins, and other "proof" that prehistoric aliens were flying around exterminating the dinosaurs, breeding humans with animals, starting religions, building the pyramids, and so on.

The Home Disaster Channel: This is the place to watch experts tell single mothers and inept Philosophy professors that previous repairmen have grossly overcharged them, totally botched things, and that the damp spot on the wall means their entire house will soon disintegrate into a pile of worthless sawdust and twisted plumbing.

The Is It Food? Channel: Chefs must compete to make something edible out of weird combinations of ingredients such as lamb chops, pretzels, ice cream, and olive oil. Other people travel around eating disgusting things without throwing up --- giant ant eggs with guacomole, sheep milk cheese infested with maggots, baby mice in rice wine, and similar delicacies.
I can't wait for the baseball season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good advice

A  young woman confidently walked around the room while explaining stress management to an  audience.

As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected her to ask the question, "Half empty, or half full?"

But she fooled them.

"How  heavy is this glass of water?", she inquired with a smile.

Answers were called out ranging from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it."

"If I  hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm, but if I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance."

In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes, and that's the way it is with stress."

"If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put your stress burdens down for a while and rest before holding them again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden, holding stress longer and better each time practiced."

"So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down."

"Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. Pick them up tomorrow."

[Author unknown.]

Monday, December 17, 2012

The law of gravity

Friday, December 14, 2012

Signs of the times

• In 31 American states, if a rape results in a woman giving birth, the rapist can exercise his parental rights to demand access to the child.

• 3-D printers that enable users to design and produce plastic objects are now available for less than $500! Here's a video that shows such a printer in operation. More expensive models can create objects from a variety of materials, with amazing levels of detail.

• A petition demanding that the White House build a Death Star has 25,000 signatures.

• Nine in ten Canadian parents with teenagers who have their license rate their teens' driving ability as fairly good, or better.

• In a current scam, hackers infect your PC with a virus that locks it, preventing access to your files. They then demand hundreds of dollars to unlock it, but rarely do so even when the money is paid.

• A new study suggests that, to boost your brain's creativity, take a hike, and leave the laptop and iPhone at home.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The lyrics of love

I despair for the future of popular music which, with rare exception, seems to have degenerated into four bars of computer generated noise accompanying unintelligible lyrics, both repeated over and over for two and a half minutes.

The romance seems to have gone out of it, so I dug into my collection for some ballads from yesteryear that have the raw emotion of young love, the kind of thing that gets the heartstrings really vibrating in maidens' bosoms.

In the old days, farm animals often served as metaphors for the objects of the singers' affections. One couldn't be quite as explicit as today, so double entendre was often employed.

Maybe they could be, as they say in the current jargon, "repurposed" for today's teens. Just to give you a taste, here are a few samples:

I loves you baby like a root hog loves his corn
I loves you baby like a hog loves corn
I been in love with you baby
Ever since I was born
Hold It Right There
Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, 1962

If you see my milk cow
Please drive her on home
'Cause I ain't had no milk and butter
Since my cow's been gone
Milk Cow Blues
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, 1946

If you're about to see my little red rooster
Please drive him home
If you're about to see my little red rooster
Please set back home
Ain't had no peace in the farm yard
Since my little red rooster's been gone
Little Red Rooster
Big Mama Thornton, 1973
See what I mean? Pass 'em on to Adele and Biebs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The new healthcare strategy

Please do not show up here sick. This is how the healthcare system will be saved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Grandma goes digital

While Boomers are lagging behind younger Canadians in their adoption of the latest digital gizmos, they are catching up, according to a survey by

89% of Canadians aged 46 to 65 now have internet access, but just 29% have smartphones (compared with almost half of younger folk). Nonetheless, smartphone use by Boomers is up 11 percentage points since 2011, and they are just as likely as their kids and grandkids to own a tablet.

Why do some older people gravitate more readily to new technologies? Ipsos doesn't say, but I surmise that grandchildren are responsible, directly or indirectly.

I'll bet plenty of grandparents will find tablets under the tree this Christmas, courtesy of the little ones and their parents, and others will be signing up for Skype, Flickr, and Facebook accounts so they can stay in touch with grandkids' doings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pick your battles

Friday, December 7, 2012

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Immortality has been proven by a jellyfish.

• All of the accessible precious metals on earth are the result of a bombardment of meteorites more than 200 million years after the planet was formed

• Canadians falsely believe that we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. In fact, it has many shortcomings, including wait times for emergency care, for which we rank last out of 11 developed countries, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. While half of our patients wait longer than four hours for admittance to the ER, that happens for less than 5% of patients in the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.

• The U.S. birth rate has fallen to a record low of 64 per 1,000 women of childbearing age. Foreign-born women account for 23% of all births.

• In a Canadian study, people who were given worn-out $20 bills spent 82% more of the money than consumers who were given four crisp $5 bills, suggesting that people don't like carrying yucky money.

• A separate study showed that money can be carrying six times as much bacteria as public lavatory seats.
How about that?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Senior Santa

Again this year, I'll be bringing you a selection of special gifts for those of a certain age (or uncertain age if you're having memory issues). Here's the first.

After a long day of girl-watching at the mall, gramps sometimes needs a little lie-down before heading home. This tag-along trailer is just the ticket.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

No diet for digital

This interesting graphic comes from, and shows how our consumption of media has changed over the past 130 years.

The media explosion began in the 1940's with television, which continues to grab more of our time. As digital media have entered the scene, print has been the big loser, but outdoor media (billboards and the like)  have maintained their share.

The internet, while still less popular than TV, is rising at a steep rate.

This chart suggests that, as recently as 1960, newspapers, radios, and television consumed just four hours per day for an average individual, compared to about 10 hours of media immersion today.

With the exception of the declining interest in print, we haven't reduced our usage of older media as new ones appear. We've just added more layers to the mix. That's why the chart projects that we'll spend 12 hours/day consuming media by 2020!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Christmas tale

A couple was Christmas shopping at the mall on Christmas Eve, and the mall was packed.

As the wife walked through the mall she was surprised to look up and see her husband was nowhere around.

She was quite upset because they had a long list of gifts to buy, so she called him on her cellphone to ask where he was.

In a calm voice, the husband said, "Honey, you remember the jewelry store we went into about 5 years ago where you fell in love with that diamond necklace that we could not afford and I told you that I would get it for you one day?"

The wife choked up and started to cry and said, "Yes, I remember that jewelry store."

He said, "Well, I'm in the bar right next to it."

[Author unknown]

Monday, December 3, 2012

The father-son chat

Friday, November 30, 2012

Signs of the times

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. ~ Abraham Lincoln
• A downtown shop worker in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, tired of Salvation Army bell-ringing, called in a noise complaint to the police.

• Victoria's Secret had to apologize for dressing a model in a Native American-style headdress, leopard-print undies and high heels, for its annual fashion show.
• A New York cop's wife discovered her husband's intention to kidnap women in order to eat them when she read his plans on his computer. He had 100 women earmarked.

• 800 million human beings are now unemployed or underemployed in the world.

• The newest Japanese train will travel at more than 300 miles (483 kilometers) per hour.

• No one was reported shot, stabbed or slashed in New York City on Monday this week. Police officials can not remember that happening in living memory.
I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. ~ Robert McCloskey

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The best guests

When we're traveling with our dog, we have to identify in advance the hotels that accept pets. They're not too hard to find, but many more do not allow a dog in the room.

This item, author unknown, resonated with us.

A man wrote a letter to a small hotel in a midwest town he planned to visit on his vacation.

He wrote: "I would very much like to bring my dog with me. He is well-groomed and very well behaved. Would you be willing to permit me to keep him in my room with me at night?"

An immediate reply came from the hotel owner, who wrote:
"Sir: I've been operating this hotel for many years. In all that time, I've never had a dog steal towels, bedclothes, silverware, or pictures off the walls. I've never had to evict a dog in the middle of the night for being drunk and disorderly. And I've never had a dog run out on a hotel bill.
Yes, indeed, your dog is welcome at my hotel. And, if your dog will vouch for you, you're welcome to stay here, too."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Step into these shoes

You're a single parent. You're down to your last $1,000. Can you make it through the month? Click here, or on the image below, to see how far you can stretch a dollar.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thinking the unthinkable

I was in a weird place recently.

It was an eerie, silent place, unlike anything I had ever seen. Things seemed to move of their own accord, as if imbued with some supernatural intelligence.

It was a warehouse, and while you may be visualizing some haunted, forgotten, ruin left over from the Great Depression, this was a state of the art distribution facility operated by one of North America's leading clothing retailers.

Pallets of product moved around the huge, spotless, climate-controlled space, subject to a central command system as they followed electronic paths embedded in the floor.

I saw no forklift trucks or workers during the couple of hours I visited. The scene was a far cry from the 1960's shipping dock where I slugged boxes around to earn beer money during my student days.

This is the rapidly approaching, automated future, and it's bringing huge problems for masses of workers with skills geared for the 20th century.

Robots, information technology, and self-service are eliminating the jobs that enabled millions of families, over almost seven decades, to live comfortable, middle class lives.

Self-serve gasoline pumps, automatic tellers, and do-it-yourself checkouts in retail stores gave us early warning that things were changing, that technology could do many things more cheaply, and more dependably, than people.

Granted, advancing technology also creates jobs, but most of those require very specialized, high level skills, not the sort of thing that can be picked up in a quickie job retraining program. And whereas the technology train has historically delivered more jobs than it destroyed, it now seems to be shifting into reverse.

Many manufacturing plants are highly automated, and becoming more so. The latest robots can each perform several functions.

Some forecasters think that automobile plants, for example, will be operated with just a handful of humans who program and maintain the robots and other machines. Robots are are now moving into second tier manufacturing operations, and we have previously mentioned the new versions being built for small businesses.

Futurist Jeremy Rifkin sees technology largely replacing farm workers, factory workers and, eventually, service workers.

That sounds like a hollowing out that leaves only the low skilled, low paid jobs at the bottom and the very high skilled, high paid jobs at the top, with those in the middle largely disappearing.

I am old enough to remember the forecasts of a "leisure society" that were being bandied about fifty years ago. That turned out to be a pipe dream, but maybe we ought to start thinking about a world without jobs for the middle class, and the dramatic impact that would have. On everything.

Update: At mid-day on Saturday, January 5, 2013, I was shopping in a Wal-Mart in Venice FL, and found that there were no human checkout clerks, only a few automated self-scan checkouts. The lines were long, and grouchy, but customers passively stood in line awaiting their turn. I abandoned my purchase, and went elsewhere. If enough of us do this, there's a small chance that things might change.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Patience will be rewarded

Friday, November 23, 2012

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Psychopaths are four times as likely to be found in senior management as in the general population.

• Kids in big families get less, but achieve more.

• About half of the countries and territories in the world have laws or policies that penalize remarks or actions considered to be against God or religion

• 30% of men wear colourful socks to express their personality according to a survey by

• The cardiac pacemaker was invented in Canada by the "Father of Biomedical Engineering," John Hopps.

• A pound of potato chips costs two hundred times more than a pound of potatoes.
How about that?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The battle of Melancthon


The megaquarry is dead, and citizen action killed it.

Background for those who haven't been following this story:

In 2006, Highland Companies began buying up land in Melancthon Township, a rural area about an hour and a half northwest of Toronto. Their story was that they were going to create a "world class" potato growing operation. Many suspected that aggregates, not potatoes, were at the bottom of this, and in March, 2011, Highland finally 'fessed up, announcing that they would develop an 2300-acre aggregate quarry.

Then the fight was on.

The prospect of losing thousands of acres of farmland, an abundant water supply, and a way of life, mobilized the farm community. Of course, big money was on the table, and there was much speculation among neighbours about who would cave in, and who would stand their ground.

Some, particularly those without heirs who would farm the land, rightly saw this as their chance to cash out and enjoy a comfortable retirement.

There was a recent precedent for all this in nearby Caledon, where a citizens coalition had won a 14-year fight to keep a quarry out of their scenic hills and dales. I know some of the people who led that fight, and they celebrated deservedly when the Ontario Municipal Board finally agreed with them in November, 2010.

But this was a different situation. Whereas Caledon is full of hobby farmers, affluent professionals and retirees, Bay Street money men, and well-connected business people, Melancthon is populated by real farm folk, many living on land passed down through several generations.

The revelation that the Highland project was backed by a multi-billion dollar U.S.-based hedge fund served to stiffen local resistance. Major fundraising events were organized, and people from the city brought their money and support. Meetings and media interviews were held in farmhouse kitchens.

It was the little guy against the big guy, the farmer against the hedge fund, the stuff of Hollywood movies.

And it had a happy ending, for some.

Highland Companies withdrew their application yesterday, noting that they felt they did "not have sufficient support from the community and government to justify proceeding with the approval process." Their president resigned at the same time.

No doubt, there were cheers in Melancthon when the word got around.


Ontario, and especially the Greater Toronto Area, need aggregate for the concrete and asphalt that go into construction and maintenance of highways, bridges, sewers, houses, shopping malls, condo towers, schools, office buildings, industrial plants, recreational facilities, and the rest of the urban and suburban landscape.

It has to come from somewhere.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Doggie act

This starts out a bit slow, but stay tuned for the big finish. Thanks to Grasshopper for sending it along.

Can't see the video? Click here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Suddenly Toronto is actually excited about the Canadian Football League after years of disinterest. The local pigskin franchise has always had a hard core of fans, but the Argonauts are largely ignored between Grey Cup appearances.

The Leafs dominate the local sports scene, with baseball's Blue Jays and basketball's Raptors sharing what remains of commentators' and fans' attention.

So, here's a quick primer for those who want to sound "in the know" over the chips and dip at the Grey Cup party:
• This is the 100th Grey Cup game.

• The first Grey Cup game was played on December 4, 1909, and the University of Toronto won.

• The Argonaut club was founded in 1873, and is the oldest pro sports team in North America that is still playing under its original name.

• This will be the 22nd time the team has contested for the Grey Cup.

• Argos have the Grey Cup's best winning percentage (71.4) and have won in their last four appearances (1991, 1996, 1997, 2004)

• Argos' last Grey Cup game was against the BC Lions in 2004, and they won 27-19.

• They moved from Exhibition Stadium to the Rogers Centre in 1989.

• The famous Grey Cup "mud bowl,"was played in 1950 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. My neighbour, Nick Volpe, kicked two field goals in that game to help Argos win it 12-zip.

• The "fog bowl" was played at Exhibition Stadium  in 1962 between Winnipeg and Hamilton. After the first quarter, the game was virtually invisible to fans, and players couldn't see the ball once it was airborne. Commissioner Sydney Halter halted the game with 9 minutes and 29 seconds left and the Blue Bombers up by one point. In the morning, the fog had lifted and the game resumed, with no change in the final score (28-27).

• The 1996 edition of the Grey Cup game was called the "snow bowl." It was played between Toronto and Edmonton at Hamilton's Ivor Wynne stadium, and snow was so heavy that tractors were needed to clear the field before the game and again at halftime.

• This year's tussle matches the Argos against the Calgary Stampeders for the third time. The Stamps defeated the Argos in 1971 (14-11) but, in their 1991 match up, Toronto came out on top (36-21).
There you go. That should get you to halftime, when the conversation will probably shift to the NHL lockout and mayor Ford's latest antics.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Friday, November 16, 2012

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Campbell's Soup, knowing that soup sells in miserable weather, developed an algorithm that uses meteorological data to track weather patterns and triggers media ad buys in regions that are currently cold or wet.

• A recent survey [PDF] conducted by research company Edelman Berland found that consumers view advertising and marketing as one of the professions least valuable to society. Surprisingly, only 35 percent of marketing professionals considered their own profession valuable.

• Fisher Pens spent $2 million to develop a pen that would work in zero gravity for use by NASA astronauts on space missions. The Soviets used a pencil.

• Firms whose male CEOs have wider faces achieve superior financial performance, according to researchers.

• Powerful people feel taller than they are.

• Having sex burns off 360 calories per hour.
How about that?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Vive la différence

Well, maybe not.

France places 48th on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap list. In the seven years that the list has been published, there has been "slow progress" in most of the countries sampled. Iceland tops the list, followed by Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

Canada ranks 21st, the U.S. 22nd.

France actually dropped two spots since 2010, and is down there with the Kyrgyz Republic and Macedonia. This might have prompted the Prime Minister to send his ministers back to school for anti-sexism classes.

But it was more likely some recent, embarrassing, gaffes by those in high office.

Yes, the Equality Ministry is offering a series of "gender equality sensitization" sessions to help them become more "égalitaire"and avoid gender stereotypes in their references to their female colleagues.

Presumably female ministers will be subjected less frequently to catcalls when they wear dresses in Parliament, or dismissed as incapable of understanding technical subjects, as in the past.

All of this is happening against a background of constant revelations about the sex lives of senior government members.

The president's live-in girlfriend has a tiff with the mother of his children; the previous president divorces his wife when she has an affair, and immediately marries a model/entertainer; the French chief of the IMF is accused of sexual assault by a hotel chambermaid in New York; the former justice minister accuses a hotel tycoon of siring her child.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Enjoying the beach

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Different standards?

We often hear about immigrant doctors being required to jump through many hoops by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons before they can practise in the province. Sometimes, it seems that the rules are unreasonably restrictive, given the shortage of family physicians.

Too often, they must drive taxicabs or do other unskilled jobs for years in order to feed their families.

But it seems that, once a member of the College, one is subject to much more relaxed standards. At least, that's how it looks from the outside.

Doctor John K. Pariag is a case in point.

In a routine procedure, Doctor Pariag cut open a man's hepatic artery. He bled to death.

He misdiagnosed a 12-year old girl, performed unnecessary surgery, and then bungled it so badly that another operation was needed.

He removed healthy appendixes from three patients.

He punctured a patient's bowel while performing surgery.

He removed a patient's thyroid without the necessary training to do so.

He left a sponge inside a woman, and performed a second surgery to remove it, while keeping this information from her.

In all, he admitted to 21 cases of professional misconduct and incompetence in a March hearing, which found him lacking judgement, skill, knowledge, and regard for the patient's welfare.

You would expect him to be driving a cab now, right?

No. Thanks to a "plea bargain," he continues to practise at a Mississauga walk-in clinic.

He says his complication rate is "not worrisome."

[Written with information from the Toronto Star.]

Monday, November 12, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Signs of the times

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. ~ Abraham Lincoln
• In a recent study, 62% of college students said they could not live without the internet, and 31% said it would be a struggle. One in three said it was as important as air, shelter, food, and water.

• While engineers work hard to make cars more fuel efficient, the increasing weight of drivers and passengers is also increasing fuel usage. Every 100 pounds of excess weight cuts fuel efficiency by 2%, not to mention that larger folks prefer larger, less efficient, vehicles. [Source: Toronto Star]

• An employee of restaurant chain Arby's was fired after escaping an armed robbery by climbing out of the fast food restaurant’s drive-through window.

• Brazil has started a program to clone animals from species at risk of going extinct, including black lion tamarins, maned wolves, and jaguars.

• A Dutch company, uniQure, will start selling the first human gene therapy to be approved in the West by mid-2013. Gene therapies modify a patient’s DNA to combat specific diseases, and have been used in China for 10 years.

• A man in China sued his wife for giving birth to an ugly baby, and won.
I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. ~ Robert McCloskey

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A catty catechism

The following was developed as a mental age assessment by the School of Psychiatry at Harvard University .

Take your time, and see if you can read each line aloud without a mistake.

The average person over 45 years of age cannot do it!
1.This is this cat.
2. This is is cat.
3. This is how cat.
4. This is to cat.
5. This is keep cat.
6. This is an cat.
7. This is old cat.
8. This is fart cat.
9. This is busy cat.
10. This is for cat.
11. This is forty cat.
12. This is seconds cat.
Now go back and read the third word in each line from the top down.

[Author unknown. Thanks to Fred for sending this along.]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Travels with Charlie

We have a new addition to the zoo here.

On Monday, we arrived home from Maryland with Charlie, a 10-week old Corgi pup. He has some learning to do, like where it's not okay to pee and poop, and how to deal with cats, but he'll figure it all out soon.

Right now, he has information overload, having never seen anything but his brothers and sisters in a big pen in the breeder's home until suddenly being whisked off by strangers for a night in a hotel room, and then a long car ride to this cold place called Canada.

Here are a few photos along the way.

I'm really sorry I peed on the bed, but can you let me outta here?

Hey, what's this thing around my neck, and why are you tugging on it?

Why can't I go run around out there?

Didn't I hear the dinner bell?

I'm really sorry I peed on the floor, but can you let me outta here?


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Promises, promises

In case you didn't already know this little bit of trivia, it might give you a chuckle.

On July 20, 1969, as commander of the Apollo 11 lunar module, Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon.

His first words after stepping on the moon, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," were televised to earth and heard by millions.

But just before he re-entered the lander, he made the enigmatic remark "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky".

Many people at NASA though it was a casual remark concerning some rival Soviet cosmonaut.

However, upon checking, there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs.

Over the years many people questioned Armstrong on the meaning of the statement, but Armstrong always just smiled.

On July 5, 1995, in Tampa, Florida , while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question to Armstrong. This time he finally responded.

Mr. Gorsky had died, so Neil Armstrong felt he could now answer the question.

In 1938, when he was a kid in a small mid-western town , he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit the ball, which landed in his neighbor's yard by their bedroom window. His neighbors were Mr. And Mrs. Gorsky.

As he leaned down to pick up the ball, young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky.

"Sex! You want sex? You'll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!"

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tech support has arrived

[Thanks to Fred for sending this along.]

Friday, November 2, 2012

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Boring is productive. Several experiments showed that making choices depletes mental energy. Therefore, you should develop routines for mundane decisions, like what to have for breakfast or which tie to wear with each suit, in order to have more mental resources for important decisions during the day.

• Boredom is stressful. It is worsening, as people are becoming less tolerant of a lack of stimulation, says Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at England’s University of Central Lancashire. Routine work and dull meetings are parts of the problem.

• Although many may prefer e-readers to paper, 47% of young people are reading long-form content such as books, magazines and newspapers, according to a Pew study.

• 85% of Canadians rate themselves as "Happy," lagging behind India (89%) and Indonesia (93%), but well ahead of Americans (79%), according to Ipsos. Surprisingly, Canadians were cheerful even though just 38% felt their personal finances were strong, about the same proportion as in the U.S. (35%).

• It's a good idea to keep your car keys beside the bed at night. If you're burglarized, just push the panic button on the key fob to set off the car car alarm, which makes a heck of a racket and may scare off the intruder.

• Tiny Sicily employs 26,000 auxiliary forest rangers, 17 times as many as British Columbia, where forests cover about two-thirds (60 million hectares) of the province’s total land mass. [Source: Toronto Star]
 How about that?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Conrad, the reboot

As you know, I worry constantly about Conrad Black and the turns of fortune that have troubled him so much over the past few years.

Loyal readers will recall that, in the spring, hoping to be of assistance in some small way, I put him forward for leadership of Canada's Liberal Party, but that seems now to be an unlikely chance given Justin Trudeau's ascension.

Meanwhile, the costs of operating a baronetcy continue, so I have been pondering how we might help his lordship occupy his time gainfully. There is some urgency surrounding the matter.

Surely we can not have him idling on the runway indefinitely like a B-52 without a bombing mission. The exhaust fumes will accelerate global warming, and the noise is scaring off the game birds.

Perhaps we may find inspiration in Conrad's past. If memory serves, he was quite a croquet player, back in the day.

This suggests a sporting opportunity heretofore uncovered, and one that has a good deal of commercial potential, in my estimation.

I will outline the whole undertaking for you, if you'll bear with me.

For those unfamiliar with the game, the objective is to get both of your balls through the hoops before your opponents get theirs through.

Once through, the balls are removed.

Some may find it difficult to discern the appeal of this for the players, but it's all laid down in The Simplified Laws of Association Croquet, so there can be no disputation. I suspect that some of these matches might be quite prolonged in the late going.

When played at the highest level, croquet displays sufficient action and drama to get the crowd on its feet, and it dovetails nicely into the time-honoured tradition of glamourizing sport in the pursuit of big bucks.

The formula for that, which involves getting just the right mix of testosterone, cleavage, and human growth hormone, has been proven effective across the full gamut of professional sports.

A croquet match, if you've never seen one, is really something.

Quoting from the rules, "A ball can be wired by a hoop upright ~1-3/4" away from its edge as this could prevent the striker's ball from being able to clip the nearest edge of the target ball. You can be wired if the peg or a hoop prevents you from playing a normal backswing to hit an 'open ball' (the other balls being of course wired). A ball with any part lying in the jaws of a hoop is wired by definition from the other balls; again the opponent must be responsible for its position."

You will now grasp the reason for my enthusiasm. Can't you feel the excitement, the thrill of it, the crowd's roar, urged on by the cheerleading Croquettes.

Anyway, the idea is to set up the Croquet Mania Global Nuclear Overlords Naildown (CroMaGNON) Championship Series. We'd be looking for the biggest, baddest, meanest, sweatiest, croquet players in the world to go head to head out there amidst the hoops in pursuit of the Crossharbour cup.

Future expansion is envisioned, perhaps Lingerie Croquet, or Croquet Fantasies On Ice.

Bestride the entire enterprise will be Commissioner Black, directing the whole affair, bestowing honours and trophies, levying fines and suspensions upon those in breach of the ancient rules --- touching another chap's balls, that sort of thing --- and taking 20% of the gate, of course.

In his lordship's own words, "The only charge that anyone can level against us is one of insufficient generosity to ourselves."


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

She's no lady

There's something I like about this Lyle Lovett tune. I hope you do, too.

Can't see the video? Click here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The stripped club

A recent article about Conrad Black's fight against removal as an officer of the Order of Canada mentioned that only four others have been stripped of this honour.

I must admit I drew a blank on this, and I'm guessing some of you may also be scratching your heads, so your humble correspondent went searching for the answer.

And here it is:
• Alan Eagleson, disbarred Canadian lawyer and convicted felon in two countries. After a high profile and seemingly meritorious career in the hockey world, spent time in the slammer for defrauding Bobby Orr, Darryl Sittler, and other clients, and enriching himself illegally from other sources. Many of you will be saying, "How could I have possibly forgotten that?"

• David Ahenakew, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. You remember him now, don't you? His boo-boo was a speech in which he made mention of "goddamn immigrants." Then, in the following Q & A session, said that Jews were a disease in Germany and that Hitler was trying to "clean up Europe" when he "fried six million of those guys." Expulsion was predictable.

• T. Sher Singh a prominent Sikh lawyer and race relations advocate who was disbarred in 2007 for mishandling client's funds. The amounts were quite small, just a few thousand dollars. This a sad tale of a respected man who made a few bad decisions, and paid the consequences. Frankly, I didn't remember this guy at all. If you did, you get bonus points.

• Steve Fonyo, the amputee who completed a coast-to-coast marathon, raising $14 million. Now prompted, you'll recall him, of course. Despite his achievements, many Canadians seemed to resent him as a copycat of the revered Terry Fox, and Fonyo's life spiralled down into brushes with law that included assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, fraud, and possession of a stolen vehicle. Another man who did something good, and then saw it all go away in an uncontrollable rush.
So, this is the company in which Lord Black now finds himself --- a club even more exclusive than the Order of Canada.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trouble in paradise

[Thanks to Fred for sending this along.]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• With over 3 million lakes, 9% of Canada ’s territory is actually fresh water and over 60% of all the lakes in the world are found within its borders.

• Canada also has the most educated populace in the world, with 50% of its population having been educated at the post-secondary level. It is followed by Israel at 45% and Japan at 44%.

• With only about 3,000 people, the Falkland Islands are home to approximately 500,000 sheep, 350 for each person.

• At 4 people per square mile, Mongolia is the least densely populated country on Earth.

• There are no rivers in Saudi Arabia.

• Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world More than 820 languages are spoken their,  12% of the world’s total.

• Siberia is home to approximately 25% of the world’s forests. They span an area larger than the continental United States, making Russia the largest converter of CO2 into oxygen.

• Afghanistan produces 95 percent of the world’s opium.

• The United States has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. China comes in second place at 1.5 million and Russia comes third at 870,000.
How about that?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quiz for know-it-alls

Okay, smarty pants. Let's see how you do with this. The answers are shown below.
1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?

6. Only three words in standard English begin with the letters ' dw' and they are all common words. Name two of them.

7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter 'S.'


1. Boxing.

2. Niagara Falls. The rim erodes about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.

3. Asparagus and rhubarb.

4. Strawberry.

5. The pear grew inside the bottle. The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.

6. Dwarf, dwell and dwindle

7. Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation mark, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.

8. Lettuce.

9. Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Flyin' high

Next time you're sitting in coach, knees pressed into the seat pocket, dining on potato chips, and listening to a screaming baby, calm your mind with thoughts of the way the 1% fly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Inventive Canada

Reading an article in the New York Times, I see IMAX described as an American technology. IMAX is the large-format, extremely high resolution, film format invented by the Canadian IMAX Corporation.

This happens all the time. Canadians have invented many of the products and technologies that populate the modern world. But if you asked any ten people in China, the United States, Europe, or Canada for that matter, all would say these were American inventions:
• Peanut butter
• Walkie-talkie
• Standard time
• Java programming language
• Pager
• Telephone
• Radio telephony (forerunner of the cellphone)
• Hydrofoil boats
• Variable pitch propeller
• Electric wheelchair
• Prosthetic hand
• G-suit (worn by all fighter jet pilots to enable tight turns)
• Instant replay
• Electron microscope
• Pablum
• Plexiglass
• Garbage bag
• Alkaline battery
• Electric oven
• Paint roller
• Electric badger catapult
And this is just a small sample.

Monday, October 22, 2012

At the edge

Friday, October 19, 2012

Signs of the times

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. ~ Abraham Lincoln
• Remember people shooting around through vacuum tubes in the 1960s TV show The Jetsons? Engineers are working on a concept that would hit speeds of up to 4,000 km/h (2,500 mph), getting you from North America to Europe four hours before you left.

• Once the giants of the electronics world, Japanese companies have been stomped by competitors that deliver acceptable quality at low prices. Sharp's share of the industry dropped from 22% to 5%, while South Korea's Samsung went from 10% to 29%. Sony and Panasonic have also seen their value plummet. It seems that most customers are more interested in getting a good price than having the latest technology.

• The Taiwanese defense ministry will be asking Apple to lower the resolution of some top-secret military bases that showed up on the iPhone 5's new mapping app.

• A French woman received a telephone bill for 11,721,000,000,000,000 euros, which is roughly 7,000 times the French national debt. The phone company initially told her there was nothing they could do to amend the computer-generated statement, then later offered to set up instalments to pay off the bill. Finally, the company admitted the bill should have been for 117.21 euros, and waived it completely.

• 67% of Americans now say there is solid evidence that the earth’s average temperature has been getting warmer over the past few decades according to a Pew Research national survey. That's up four points since last year and 10 points since 2009.

• Men with shaved heads were perceived as an inch taller and 13% stronger than men with full heads of hair, according to an experiment by Albert Mannes of The Wharton School, who said he conducted his study after noticing that he was treated with greater deference after shaving off his own hair. His research shows that men with shaved heads are seen as more dominant than men with full hair, and men with thinning hair are seen as the least powerful of all.
I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. ~ Robert McCloskey

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Can't see the video? Click here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A union for everyone

When the volume of this chorus grows till they can’t help but hear
When our leaders serve the people, not just banks and profiteers
When the food and labor of the earth feed everyone here
That is one big union
That will be one big union
Come join our one big union

From the song One Big Union by Matthew Grimm.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada is merging with the Canadian Auto Workers to create an organization that represents 320,000 workers across 20 industries.

The interesting part of this is the stated intention of this new "super-union" to sign up senior citizens, unemployed people, students, and pretty much anyone else they come across who can scrape up the to-be-determined union dues.

Ummm, how might that work, exactly?

Charlie the panhandler gets rousted from his regular spot in front of a coffee shop. Being a union member, he gets his local involved, and they go after the coffee guys to get Charlie his spot back, plus restitution for income lost during his "service interruption," and dibs on the prime location near the exit when Spooky moves on and that becomes available.

Herb, a retiree over at Shady Acres, thinks chicken five times a week is just too much poultry. He makes a fuss, but Shady Acres is unresponsive. Herb contacts the union, and they mount a membership drive. They sign up 85% of the residents,  most of the staff, and the cat. The new collective agreement specifies a twice per week limit on fowl, extra dessert on Friday, regular cleaning of the litter box, and brandy with the flu shot.

Jimmy's parents aren't happy with his grades. He's getting F's in science and geography, and D's in everything else. Their complaints fall on deaf ears. They call in the union, which negotiates D's for Jimmy in science and geography, B's in all other subjects, a parking space in the staff lot, and a free pass on his next three expulsions.

Solidarity forever. Sign me up!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Three tricks

Monday, October 15, 2012

Good advice

Friday, October 12, 2012

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• In 2012, December has 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays. This happens once every 823 years! [NOTE: See Edward's comment below.]

•The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. In the Renaissance era, it was fashionable to shave them off.

• It won't be long before people will be able to make their own guns, among other objects, by downloading a schematic from the internet and using a 3-D printer. No, this is not science fiction.

• If you are right handed, you will tend to chew your food on the right side of your mouth, and vice versa if you are left handed.

• A new survey has found that mental illness affects more than 22 per cent of Canadian workers

• Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one end.
How about that?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Think like a kid to change the world

If you're looking for real innovation, game changers, breakthroughs, inventions, then stay away from experts.

That sounds contrary to common sense, but after listening to a recent program on CBC's The Current, I found that advice pretty convincing.

One example cited is the Fosbury Flop, a style of high jumping originated by 1968 Olympics gold medal winner and record-setter Dick Fosbury. It was completely different from the Straddle and the Western Roll that were accepted practice.

Resisted by accomplished high jumpers at the time, it became the dominant style because it works so much better than other approaches. But this wasn't a top athlete's refinement to pile up a few more wins. Fosbury came up with it as a frustrated, mediocre, young high school athlete who was just looking for a way to avoid losing so often at local meets.

Another example is Nicole Rycroft's work to save 800 year old trees from clearcutting. Appalled that most of Canada's, and the world's, publishing industry prints on paper made from old growth trees, she didn't head out to logging sites to protest with placards and threats of boycotts.

With no business or environmental movement background, she recognized that increasing the demand for recycled paper was the secret to getting its price down to a level that is competitive with the old growth stuff. So she approached the publishers and the authors. She got Raincoast Books on board. She got Alice Munro to demand that McLelland and Stewart publish her new book on recycled paper. Other publishers followed. She got J.K. Rowling's endorsement for the Canadian edition of the fifth Harry Potter book.

Long story short, 700 Canadian publishers of books, magazines, and newspapers now want to be seen as "green," and Nicole's organization, Canopy, is helping them move to recycled paper --- a shift in the supply chain of an entire industry.

Big leaps get made this way --- Microsoft and Apple both began in the minds of teenagers who were far removed from a computer industry focused on mainframes and blind to the potential of personal computers.

Experts tend to resist new ideas because they have made a large investment of time and money in becoming good at what they do. They're comfortable, and comfortable people aren't likely to shake things up.

In fact, they want to preserve the status quo because they've figured out how to make it work for them, and their continued prosperity depends upon ensuring that things don't change. Conversely, big new ideas often come from people who don't know any better. They don't know that their concepts won't work, so they plunge right in and do it.

Bottom line, if you're looking for innovation, try to think like a kid.           

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

And thanks for things yet to come

Suzanne in Nova Scotia sent along this photo of her golden lab Barney on duty in the kitchen this Thanksgiving weekend.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• A medical testing company offers mobile paternity tests via its Who’s Your Daddy? van that cruises the streets of New York.

• It takes less brain power to believe a statement is false than to accept it as truth, according to psychological researchers. They say this is the reason that people are more apt to believe false information being fed to them by the media and politicians.

• In the UK, over-60s are more than twice as likely to give to charity as the under-30s.

• Marriage is driving middle-aged women to drink, while divorce has a similar effect on middle-aged men.

• Special fridge magnets that connect with smartphones enable customers of Dubai's Red Tomato Pizza to place their delivery orders at the touch of a button and, in 2013, Parisian members of Evian's online ordering service will just press a wifi-enabled fridge magnet to order bottled water automatically.
How about that?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


[Thanks to Jim for sending this along] 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A simple solution

How to extinguish an oil fire in your kitchen, quickly and safely, with a damp towel.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Terms of endearment

[Thanks to Anita and Wayne for sending this along.]

An elderly lady was invited to an old friend's home for dinner one evening.  She was impressed by the way her friend preceded every request to her husband with endearing terms such as, Honey, My Love, Darling, Sweetheart, etc.

The couple had been married almost 70 years and, clearly, they were still very much in love.

While the husband was in the living room, she leaned over to her hostess to say, "I think it's wonderful that, after all these years, you still call your husband all those loving names."

The elderly lady hung her head. "To tell the truth," she said, "his name slipped my mind about 10 years ago, and I'm scared to ask the cranky old bastard what it is."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Signs of the times

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. ~ Abraham Lincoln
• Homer Simpson says, “Barack Obama, I don’t know. I already got one wife telling me to eat healthy. And, plus, he promised me death panels and Grampa is still alive. Mitt Romney? I hear he wears magic underpants. I expect the leader of the free world to go commando.”

• Planes of the future could fly on fuel made from sawdust or straw.

• Myanmar legislators have been watching old clips of the TV series The West Wing to learn about the mechanics of self-government.

• A top young American Scrabble player was caught cheating in the recent national championship competition

• More than half of Canada's 86,000 registered charities have less than $100,000 of annual revenue, and rely on volunteers to carry out their activities.

• Between 50,000 and 100,000 cats live on the streets of Winnipeg.
I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. ~ Robert McCloskey

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yanks irk queen

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The end of grammar

Spotted on Twitter:
"Someone on my Facebook thinks 'dads cooking' doesn't need an apostrophe, a charity wants me to 'save the worlds species' ...

... Is it national Down With Apostrophes Day today or something?"
Seen on a lighting store's web site:
"Please visit our expended showroom."
Seen on a résumé:
"Recipient of a plague for Salesperson of the Year."
If not dead, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, are breathing their last. They have lost many rounds over the years, but social media now has them on the ropes.

I feel that I am witnessing the bludgeoning of some old friends.

Some will say that, in the era of OMG and LOL, this concern is snobbish and irrelevant, that these things only matter to novelists, playwrights, and professors of English.

I recently read newspaper interviews with several young people who had won distinction by graduating from high school with grades of 100%. Two young men, headed respectively for studies in engineering and science, said that they hated their English classes, didn't see the point of them, thought them a waste of time.

It is painful to hear this from our brightest students.

They fail to grasp that there will come a time when they must convince people that their marvellous engineering concept or promising scientific research is worthy of support, when a business case must be made, or venture capital obtained. They will need grammar, punctuation, spelling, and compelling language then.

Or maybe they will just be getting a tattoo, and prefer to avoid "typos."

Please, dear friends, there must be verbs. They are not optional. There must be commas and apostrophes, and they are not to be scattered around at whim. A semicolon is not a medical procedure. 'Accept' and 'except' are different words.

There are two good reasons to comply with these rules. First, it ensures that you are understood. The second is that people make judgements about you based upon your facility with the language, and those judgements can affect your success.

So if yore seen alot of sign's out their of pour grammer an if their to bad oar missplaced comas or colins send too me an ill put them in a futour bog posit. Thanx for yer assfistence.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tune out, drop in

Monday, September 24, 2012

Potty training

In the men's rooms of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, the tile under the urinals would pass inspection in an operating room, but nobody notices. What everybody does notice is that there is a fly in each urinal.

Of course, if a man sees a fly, he'll aim at it.

Research showed that etching the black outline of a fly into the porcelain reduced overspray by 80%.

Nice shooting, gents.

[Thanks to Ross for sending this along.]

Friday, September 21, 2012

Class project

This short video was a teenager's final project for his high school video production class.

He attempts to tell the story of our planet in two minutes, and he did a pretty good job, although it is history as seen through an American lens.

It has been viewed by more than 2 million people in the four months since he uploaded it to YouTube.

[Thanks to Libby for sending this along.]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Signs of the times

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. ~ Abraham Lincoln
• Apparently there is a Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve.

• There is virtually no interest in Group of Seven paintings in the international art market, said Sotheby's Canada president David Silcox while commenting on a recent art heist. [Source: Toronto Star]

• The number of single people in America is growing at more than twice the rate of those who are married. If that trend continues, single adults will soon outnumber married couples for the first time on record, according to CNN.

• Starbucks is trying out a new recycling process that would turn stale muffins and coffee grounds into bio-plastics and laundry detergent.

• Virtual assistants comprise a big new trend, according to the Toronto Star. These digital helpers, already on many websites, provide answers to customers' questions, and are taking over from employees in airports, malls, hospitals, and elsewhere. They show up every day, aren't temperamental, and give complete, consistent information.

• $21 trillion are stashed in tax havens such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, according to the Tax Justice Network. The sum, equal to to the combined gross national products of the U.S. and Japan, are owned or controlled by just 92,000 people.
I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. ~ Robert McCloskey

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Memo to old white dudes

Please stop whining!

Hey, you've accomplished a lot. Provided for your family, made sure the kids got an education, paid your taxes, kept your nose clean, and socked away enough for a decent retirement.

You were the guys everyone depended on to get it done, without fussing and without expecting anyone to throw you an appreciation dinner.

But I am tired of hearing you growling that we ought to cut social programs for single moms, kids living in crime-ridden neighbourhoods, jobless teens, impoverished seniors, newly arrived refugees, and others who are struggling to make a life in difficult circumstances.

Please stop sending me those vitriolic eMail messages that continuously circulate around the internet, usually ending with "If you don't pass this on, you are part of the problem."

Please stop saying, "If we could make it, why can't they," as though 2012 is like 1972.

I happen to know, because I am one of you, that our generation enjoyed the most amazing run of good luck ever seen in modern times.

Most of us grew up with two parents, and our moms were homemakers. Our streets and playgrounds were safe. In high school, we were not surrounded by drugs, gangs, and weapons.

We could find a permanent job and earn a decent living with a high school diploma.

We were provided with access to affordable higher education. Upon graduation, most of us could choose from several jobs.

Our working years coincided with a period of enormous economic growth and prosperity. There were no wars, so our careers were not interrupted by military service, or death. It was also a period of hitherto unknown mobility, so we could live and work wherever we wanted.

We lived in a stable, relatively classless, democratic country, filled with widespread optimism about its own future.  Our healthcare system ensured that we would never go bankrupt due to illness or accident. If we were smart and worked hard, the opportunities were almost limitless.

Hell, who couldn't make it in that environment? As someone said to me recently, "We won the lottery!"

So, you guys need to lighten up because, frankly, you're coming across as a bunch of crybabies.

Canadians like to think of themselves as the good guys, fair-minded, civilized, kind. But this meanness of spirit has taken root, and seems to be thriving.

In most societies, elders are expected to be good stewards, ensuring that important cultural values are passed on to future generations. Our dialogue seems mostly about paying minimal taxes while making others pay for their mistakes.

Look, I know all old white men don't think this way. I also know there are no silver bullets that will solve all the problems of 21st century society, and that many folks bear much of the responsibility for their predicaments. Dropping out of school, getting pregnant too young, failing to save enough for retirement are all dumb moves.

But letting those lives continue to spiral down without offering a hand up will come back to bite us in the longer run with more crime, more jails, more police, higher unemployment levels, more homeless people and panhandlers on our streets, more drugs in our schoolyards, and general erosion of our quality of life.

So, whether you're doing it for humanitarian reasons, or to ensure a decent future for your grandchildren, you need to be part of the solution.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Collateral damage in the robot invasion

In the 20th century, changes in technology reduced employment in agriculture from 40% of the workforce to 2%. In the 21st century, it appears that robots are having a similar effect in manufacturing and distribution.

While robots have been used in the manufacture of automobiles and other products for several decades, there were many tasks best handled by humans. But, the latest generation of robots have much improved vision and touch capabilities, and can complete multiple tasks, so they can perform a much wider spectrum of manual jobs.

These range from riveting the bodies of jetliners to packing lettuce for shipping. In warehouses, robots can find and sort packages and boxes in seconds, much faster than a human being.

Costs of this equipment is coming down rapidly, making them much cheaper than human labour over the lifetimes of the machines. In fact, Rethink Robotics is now designing inexpensive, easy-to-use robots for small businesses.

While all this adds to efficiency and productivity, the downside is the potential for massive reduction in the requirement for low-skilled and semi-skilled workers. Where people are retained, many will be directed and tracked by computers. This is already happening.

In an era of austerity, will the necessary safety nets and retraining be ready to aid the huge numbers of workers who will be dislocated by these changes?

For a peek at the current state of robotics, here's a look at a BMW factory:

[Written with information from The New York Times]