Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Almost wireless

Although I have a cellphone, I must concede that I don't find it particularly convenient.

I usually have no idea where my cellphone is presently located.

If I do locate it, I rarely remember to take it with me when I leave the house.

If I do have it with me, I frequently forget to switch it on.

If I remember to switch it on, the battery is usually run down.

If the battery is run down, it will take most of the morning to find the charger.

If the battery is charged, I often discover that the change in my pocket has speed-dialled someone in Europe and had a 20-minute conversation with them.

I receive so few calls that, when I hear a ring, I just assume that it is someone else's cellphone. Then, when I realize that it's my phone ringing, it has usually gone to voice mail by the time I rummage it out of my pocket.

When I get home, I look up Voice Mail Retrieval in the manual.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Your call is important to us

Friday, July 27, 2012

Signs of the times

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. ~ Abraham Lincoln
• The average Canadian household is now about $40,000 wealthier than its American counterpart.

• British women now wear the highest heels in Europe. Are they compensating for being among the continent's shortest ladies?

• If you have those solar powered outdoor lights in your garden, you have a ready source of light for the next power outage. Just bring them inside and stick them in bottles.

• Criminals in Europe are now using a new type of wafer-thin card skimmer that's small enough to fit directly in an ATM's card slot, making it considerably more difficult to spot as it steals your bank card info.

• The letter advising that one has been offered a knighthood requires the conferee to check either a Yes or No checkbox to indicate whether they find this "agreeable." No, one may not do this online.

• Olympic organizers have a strict policy that prohibits athletes from Facebook and Twitter mentions of any brands that are not official sponsors of the London games.

• Now that new foreign strippers are banned from Canada, the peeler clubs are looking to hire 18 year-old students on a part-time basis.
Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dad's car

I found this on Pamela Patchet's excellent blog, A Novel Woman.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The art and science of our lives

In a recent edition of his always-thought-provoking blog Random Riffs, Brian Hayman asked, "Would you rather think of your life as a work of art or a science project?"

I have never considered that question, have you?

It seems to me that if our lives are works of art, then we are the artists, deliberately adding a colour here, a line there, editing out portions that no longer feel right, changing perspective and, if we are fortunate, breaking through to a new realization of ourselves.

But our lives also have some of the attributes of a science project --- investigation, experimentation, testing, failing, acquiring new knowledge, creating new hypotheses that spark new experiments.

And there is yet another dimension --- that of an engineering project, and here we are primarily the objects of others' work --- parents, teachers, clergymen, politicians, bosses, each of whom have an ideal end product in mind, a blueprint, and exercise their influence to shape us into that.

It seems to me that our lives begin as engineering projects. We are empty vessels for usually-well-intentioned authority figures who fill our brains with their beliefs and knowledge.

Then the science project begins, if we are so inclined. We test those beliefs and that knowledge, finding both imperfect, modifying and replacing them with the results of our own experience and learning.

Art arrives only with maturity, if at all. Art requires courage. Art involves going against social prescriptions, finding our true selves, putting that on the canvas of our lives, and displaying it to the world, without apology.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When snake venom meets blood

It's one of those things you don't want to see, but are compelled to watch.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The view from here

Friday, July 20, 2012

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• An outstanding loan made 540 years ago by a German village to the city of Berlin is now worth trillions. Every 50 years or so they ask for payment, but have been ignored to date.

• Champagne is packaged in half-bottles, bottles, magnums, Rehoboams, Methuselahs, Salmanazars, Jeroboams, Balthazars, and Nebuchadnezzars, the last named after the King of Babylon (605-562 BC) and containing 15 litres. Undoubtedly, the German villagers mentioned above will be ordering Nebuchadnezzars if their loan is repaid.

•  In comparison with a voyage through Panama, an Arctic passage would cut the distance of a London-to-Yokohama trip by up to 40%. The ice is melting, but few shipping companies are yet planning Arctic operations, due to worries about poor visibility and icebergs.

•  In 1986 Congress and President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 99-359, which changed Daylight Saving Time from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in April. It was estimated to save the nation about 300,000 barrels of oil each year by switching most of the month April to DST.

O Canada was composed in 1880 (originally in French), but did not become our official national anthem until 1980.
How about that?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Your brain on gizmos

It turns out that multitasking is not only unproductive, but may also be harmful to your brain.

 Digital Stress and Your Brain
Via: OnlineUniversities.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Towering tussle

I've blogged before about unusual summer festivals. Here's another, sent by Suzanne. In the Catalonian region of Spain, teams compete to build and dismantle human towers, called castells.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Why can't someone design a bicycle helmet that doesn't make me look like I am competing in the Tour de France?

Why didn't humans evolve with a third hand? It would be so useful for those little household projects where one hand is holding the material together, the other is holding the flashlight, and one more hand is needed to hold the pencil, screwdriver, wrench, or saw.

Why did it take 100 years for guys to realize that protecting their brains was as important as protecting their balls? The first "cup" was used in hockey in 1874, but the first helmet didn't appear until 1974.

Why, after 200,000 years of human evolution, do kids still need braces to straighten their teeth?

Why can't they design boxer shorts with a fly both front and back so you never put them on backwards?

So many questions, so few answers.

Monday, July 16, 2012

None colder anywhere

Friday, July 13, 2012

Signs of the times

Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed. ~ Irene Peter
• Dogs and cats are good for infants' health, according to a study at Finland's Kuopio University, and the benefits increase with the amount of time the dog spends outside. It is believed that exposure to dirt and bacteria helps build up a baby's immune system.

 • In 75 countries, you can be sent to jail if you're gay, and gays can be executed in seven countries. [Toronto Star]

• Before the internet, the degrees of separation (number of links in the chain that connects you to anyone else on earth) was six. It is now 3.74.

• After ranking number one from 1994 to 2000 on the UN Human Development Index, a measure of quality of life, Canada had fallen to 6th by 2011, trailing Norway, Australia, the Netherlands, the U.S., and New Zealand.
Change is inevitable, except for vending machines.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The 8:15 should be along pretty soon

[Thanks to Libby for this.]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Truth in advertising

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The shape of things to come

Francie, a regular reader of this blog, asked for some clarification of ideas I expressed in my recent post, A cautionary tale.

Specifically, she wanted to know whether I was "saying that the present economic situation is the fault of the politicians, the unions and the workers."

I hope the following explanation clarifies my point of view.

The current "economic situation" is complex, but it has two main components --- low levels of economic activity, which causes joblessness, reduced tax revenue, etc., and high levels of debt, which hampers governments' efforts to spur economic recovery.

The recession was triggered by insufficient regulation of, and massive abuses by, large banks and other players in the financial markets, internationally. This put the global economy at risk, and required huge bailouts by governments.

High levels of public debt (owed by governments at all levels, in most countries), now make it extremely difficult to stimulate economies, as the borrowing required to do that would increase debt and its associated interest payments.

Some make a credible case for such stimulus by government on the basis that it is necessary to re-start the failing recovery, but that strategy is currently out of favour. The counter argument is that taxes can not be raised to pay the additional interest costs, because higher taxes would leave less for spending by consumers on the things that business produces, and less for investment by business that would create jobs. Result: even lower levels of economic activity, and the possibility of a downward spiral.

Some countries (e.g. Greece) have lost the ability to borrow, as lenders have cut them off or are demanding very high interest rates that reflect the risk of default. Their unpalatable alternatives are:
1. Complete collapse, civil strife, decades of political turmoil, and the destruction of their economies.


2. Subjecting themselves to the harsh management of their affairs by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU) in return for loans to keep them afloat.
This kind of thing scares the shit out of politicians. Around the world, and in our own backyard, we are now seeing them announce austerity programs. Governments are reducing staff, bargaining hard with public service unions, cutting programs, and so on, in their attempts to balance their budgets.

The point in my earlier post was that politicians, in general, have been poor stewards of our national and local economies over five decades, as they often acted irresponsibly and allowed these debts to accumulate. But we are also complicit because we voted for them, and sat idly by as they did these things.

It was a golden age when it seemed that everything could be afforded, but we now realize we were living beyond our means, and the bills have come due.

Now, as to Francie's question about who is to blame --- With regard to unions and their members, I do not fault them for bargaining hard for higher wages and benefits.

I do fault governments for agreeing to demands that could not be supported in the long run by tax revenues, and therefore required borrowing. Interest payments on those debts now crowds out valuable programs and services that contribute to our quality of life.

I also fault myself, and voters everywhere who supported the running up of public debt to unsustainable levels in good times when we should have been paying down those obligations.

In short, failure to be prudent in good times will make austerity inevitable in bad times, which is just when you don't want it.

To quote from the Ontario Ministry of Finance's own website, "the cost of servicing Ontario’s debt is approximately $10 billion, the third-largest annual expense behind health care and education. To put this in perspective, Ontario spends more money on interest each year than on colleges and universities."

As commentator Tom Friedman says, since World War II, leadership was mostly about giving things away, but it's now about taking things away.

The debate will now be about which programs and services are taken away, and we all need to be involved in the discussion and decisions that will shape our society for decades to come.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Love of the chase

Friday, July 6, 2012

Signs of the times

Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed. ~ Irene Peter
• Someone who is texting while driving is 23 times more likely to to be involved in a car crash, according to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

• A camera set up to photograph wildlife in the Carinthian forest caught an Austrian politician having sex.

• Forget about playing Mozart to a fetus, and other "prenatal education." They won't increase intelligence, and may even be harmful, says a study published in Nature.

• A boon for women with a diverse love life, blood tests can now reliably identify the father as early as the eighth or ninth week of pregnancy.

• The world's adult population is 15 million metric tons overweight.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A cautionary tale

Colorado Springs voters rejected a property tax increase, despite a $28 million budget gap.

Among the many austerity measures put into effect were force reductions of 50 police officers and 39 firefighters.

This summer, a wildfire destroyed 346 homes, killed two, and forced 34,000 residents to evacuate. Many homes were vandalized and looted. Those numbers would likely have been lower if the 89 public safety personnel were still on the payroll.

While this is a particularly dramatic example, it is typical of the risks involved in the cutbacks being made by governments at every level, around the world.

For 50 years, politicians bought our votes with borrowed money, gave themselves generous pension plans, backed down from demanding public service unions, and failed to demand value from service suppliers.

We were all part of the deficit dance. We went along with this charade, kicked the can down the road, while knowing that the piper would have to be paid some day.

A worldwide economic recession finally proved that course to be unsustainable. 

Some day is here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Canned anthem

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Office communications