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