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