Friday, April 30, 2010

Famous last words

Well, not necessarily last words, but totally memorable ones never-the-less.
Do you remember any, many, even all, of these lines from movies past?
Are there others that have become firmly etched into your memory?
Perhaps you may even have quoted some of them in your own real life situations? It seems to me, I may have borrowed nearly all at one time or another.

"Here's looking at you kid"
Humphrey Bogart - Casablanca

"I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse"
Marlon Brando - The Godfather

"You've got to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?"
Clint Eastwood - Dirty Harry

"I'll be back"
Arnold Schwarzenneger - The Terminator

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"
Clarke Gable - Gone With The Wind

"A martini, shaken not stirred"
Sean Connery - Gold Finger

I always believed that a picture was worth a thousand words, but perhaps the reverse is also true, and a few words may also conjure up many great pictures?

This blog may be the closest I will ever come to philosophizing, so perhaps I should restrict the broadcasting of my simple thoughts to the good old blogosphere, rather than competing with the likes of Plato, Socrates, et al. (Actually blogging is a relatively new phenomenon, having existed in its present electronic form only since approximately 1994, and it didn't achieve its current extraordinary popularity until about three years ago).

Weasel words and weasels.

Ask any politician how to avoid answering a direct question with a direct answer, and they will probably even manage to weasel out of giving an answer to that query. In fact there are all too many tricks to avoid giving an answer that is likely to lose them a single vote. One very effective tactic is diversion, picking out one word in a question with little or nothing to do with the real topic, and rambling on about that as if it was the real subject, at least until it is time for someone else's question. Answering one question with another is also standard operating practice in the world of political speak and double talk.

And then there are the weasel words. It is simply not possible to get a definitive answer if that answer is qualified by such words as: approximately or estimated, or such phrases as: in the foreseeable future, it is my belief that, or one should never say never, or to the best of my knowledge. Of course, in a political scrum it is often quite convenient for the politician to be selective about which questions he or she chooses to answer at all, because several are being asked at the same time. Selective hearing, or deliberately misunderstanding a question, can also be quite helpful.

Why the word weasel you wonder? Well if you have ever seen one of these little beasties in real life you would not have had to ask that question. They dart and weave about, constantly changing direction, as they search for some unsuspecting creature into which to set their needle sharp teeth. There are numerous other creatures which are rather similar in stature and appearance, but they go by names which don't sound quite so obnoxious when uttered out loud: mink, martin, stoat, ermine and ferret all come to mind, although all might well qualify because of their similar behaviour and habits.

         Lookout below!!!  
Actually I remember watching a wild mink fishing for small crabs in a marina several summers ago. When it caught one, it would bring it up onto a dock where it played with it as a cat might play with a mouse, batting the poor creature around then pouncing on it time after time until it became tired of the game... then tearing it apart before devouring it one morsel at a time, shell and all.

Come to think about it, the word minx is also a term employed from time to time as a derogatory metaphor, though with an entirely different connotation, and normally directed at a female of the human species. And then there are the cougars of course, those foxy older huntresses of our younger males. In fact there is an arc full of animals whose qualities could, and are, from time to time be applied to some members of the human species.

Take care out there! We certainly do live in a dog eat dog world. It really is just as well that cows can't fly.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Off-shore oil drilling - risks and benefits

When I was in business, I was never comfortable with the concept of risk-benefit analysis, or even of just simple risk analysis. In my opinion, these studies are inevitably affected by the personal biases of the analysts and/or their clients, are speculative at best, and otherwise questionable or even down-right suspect, in many of their conclusions.

With respect to off-shore oil drilling, that form of resource exploration and exploitation has always been considered a high stakes risky business. Also, no matter how much the engineering technology may have improved over the years, as the current BP platform disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has unfortunately proven, it can also result in serious negative environmental consequences. But... until we have multiple, effective, alternate sources of energy, I guess we're all just going to have to suck it up (Pun intended). Fortunately the energy mix will change over time, but this begs the question, is there sufficient time remaining?

Another source or category of research I don't trust at all, at all, at all, is the the never ending barrage of studies being churned out by the oil industry, the related carbon energy-source industries of coal and natural gas, and/or their minion consulting experts and spin doctors. Their collective credibilities belong somewhere deep down there with those of the tobacco and asbestos industries.

How can any individual with even a modicum of common sense, refuse to believe that the dramatic increase in atmospheric CO2 which has occurred since the start of the industrial age (when man started to seriously burn fuel of all types) and is still accelerating, is not a significant contributing cause of (note: I did not say the exclusive cause of) the greenhouse effect and the resultant atmospheric, oceanic and global warming? 

There are many similar photos available via Google images.

Certainly the current disaster has served to reopen the discussion on off-shore oil drilling, its safety and even viability. "In the Gulf of Mexico alone there are right now some 3,500 oil and gas rigs in operation, employing in the order of 35,000 workers, and producing 30% of the US's domestic oil supply. But now we are learning that it is actually an even more dangerous industry than mining, having accounted for 71 deaths and 1,500 injuries, and almost as terrifying, it has sustained an extraordinary 948 rig fires since 2001". (CBS 28 April 2010)

It seems appropriate here to introduce my favourite definition of the word "expert":
Ex means out of, and a spurt is nothing more than a drip under pressure.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Old friends and true

A dozen or so years ago, for my sins, I became involved in the BCFFF. What's that you say? Well its hardly a world renowned organization, so I probably shouldn't take it as a personal insult if you don't recognize the name... even if I was to rise through its ranks to become their first ever President. Actually all of my predecessors had been anointed with the title Chairman, but we re-wrote the constitution and by-laws during my terms in office, so I actually answered to both of these elevated titles... which may, or may not have made me twice as important.
Another happy memory (and less happy coho)!
So what is the BCFFF and what is its role in the world? Well I'm so glad you asked. As you must have suspected, it's an NGO (and before you ask... that's a Non-Governmental Organization) which in this instance is the one that favours fly fishing over all of the other hobbies and sports in he world.

And why should I have chosen this particular time to return to visit my old angling buddies, and to have this visit inspire yet another significant blog, after all I really had dropped out of the angling scene. Well, after I retired from the real world and moved to Vancouver Island, I and a few like minded individuals started a fly fishing club, "The Mid-Island Castaways", in Parksville, and this past Saturday the BCFFF honoured our small city by holding its AGM and annual banquet in our new high-rise resort, "The Beach Club". I simply could not afford to miss such an opportunity.

And my old friends? Well many of them had survived my 6 year absence without missing a beat, but they  definitely all looked older, and most of their problems were the same as those I remembered. Internally there was the on going search for new blood and more volunteers, and externally the problems with the government regulators and fish protectors had grown even worse than those I remembered, budget cuts having diverted all remaining funds to health or education. "Run-of-the-river" power projects are ruining many of our remaining hitherto pristine salmon and trout rivers, sea lice spread by the aquaculture industry are lousing up the wild salmon runs, logging has destroyed much more of our forest resource, and the list goes on in the name of progress and job creation.

It really is rather sad to think that many of our future generations will never be able to enjoy the thrill of angling, or the appreciation of nature that flows from it. These important learning tools seem to have been replaced by a myriad of new electronic, time wasting, gadgets and an unfortunately sedentary and less healthy indoor life style.

So its back to my iPhone, digital camera, and laptop computer! I feel another blog coming on.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Electronic appliances have over-run our world.

Have you ever counted the number of these electronic contraptions and gadgets that you have in your home. Or thought to total up their cost, including the price you paid for those which have already gone to meet their maker because of built-in obsolescence. I know... the total is quite amazing in our home.

Just glance around your living or family rooms. How many HD TVs, wirelessly synchronized clocks, wireless earphones, cable TV set top boxes - which may include a hard drive recorder, of course a DVD player, a stereo system, computers, wireless phones, cell phones etc. etc. And of course there is the inevitable collection of chargers and remote controls. Why on earth could every appliance not use the same ones. (Oh yes, I do know about the universal remotes that you require an engineering degree to set up and operate). And how many computerized appurtenances do you have in your car. Under the hood there are so many mysteries - just ask Honda.

Dueling remotes

Then there are the wireless hotspots in coffee shops, airports and so many other communal gathering places, so that you need never lose contact with your friends. And they (whoever 'they' are) just keep adding to the social networking programs and web sites. I believe one of the latest of these, which appears to be exploding in popularity, is called 4 square. It seems to be able to instantly advise all of your friends, with one push of a button, that you have stopped in for a cup of coffee at a particular haunt, and you desperately hope they too will all immediately pop over there for a friendly chat, union meeting or game of high stakes poker.

I see that Apple just managed to sell 300,000 of its latest electronic wonder toys, the iPad, on its opening day, and possibly 3/4 of a million by the conclusion of their first weekend. At an average price north of $500 a pop, can you believe that represents sales in the 300 to 400 million dollar range, thanks to their superb hype machine... and that's about twice what the gurus had forecast.

No, I'm not going to rush out and buy an iPad as soon as they're released in Canada... but I am looking forward to my first iPhone, which unfortunately costs just as much, or even more.

Now how did you say I go about logging onto 4 square?

Label: Hi tech, low tech.

I had a dream. Or was it a nightmare?

I was driving over to Nimby City one day in my gas guzzling Hummer (No I have never owned a Hummer - I told you this was a dream.) when I noticed something very strange hovering up in the sky above the open space where the City Hall should have been... Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Was it superman? Alas, it turned out to be none of the above. It was instead a gigantic super store dangling from an even more gigantic parachute, with banners draped all over it announcing the grand opening sale of a new Mall Wart emporium, and declaring that all Nimbys were particularly welcome, no matter what their sex, colour or creed!

Big Box - Oh no! Not in Nimby City!

Now everybody knows that big box stores are not at all welcome in Nimby City (the understatement of the year). Actually, I'm struggling to imagine any type of development that might be welcome here. Certainly fast food restaurants are big no nos, and the same goes for affordable housing, auto dealerships, and many other services that you might expect to find in a more normal town or city.

So what on earth could be the meaning of this particular dream, because, as you must be aware, all dreams do indeed have hidden meanings. Could it be that the time has come to rid the city of all nimbys, starting with those who populate the City Hall?

Or could it possibly all have been a figment of my over-active imagination, as most UFO sightings turn out to be. Which is my seguey into one of the best UFO jokes I ever heard. It was, of course, told by everyone's buddy, good old Johnny Carson, who was sharing with the world the story of where the term UFO had originated. According to Johnny: A jet pilot saw this strange saucer shaped object zipping about in front of his plane, and not knowing what else to do, he hollered from the cockpit.
"You... F. O.!!!"

Beam me up Scotty... Shatner for Governor General.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Good neighbour fences - 2

One of my favourite haunts is Rathtrevor park on the east coast of Vancouver Island, just south of Parksville. There are many reasons that I enjoy it there: The fresh ocean breeze, the sound of the wind in the trees, the abundant bird life, the friendly people and the endless photo opportunities.

You can recognize me quite easily. I'm the fellow with a camera and binocs hung around my neck, ambling along with the aid of a five foot long, telescoping, silver and black monopod. This latter prop attracts quite a few puzzled glances, and if I pause for a moment to admire a particular view, from time to time, passers-by also pause to ask me what on earth it is. Being a bit of a joker, I sometimes tell the curious that it is a telescoping fishing rod, but few are sufficiently gullible to believe that, and I generally wind up demonstrating the quick release head, camera attachment, and its 90 degree tilt mechanism.

Sometimes I'm tempted to jamb it into the spokes of some idiot racing by at breakneck speed on a fancy mountain bike, or to trip up some young jogger who makes me jealous that I am now much too old to do the same thing. It also comes in handy for keeping at a safe distance, the occasional off leash, unfriendly looking dog, which the park's signs clearly insist "must be on leash and under control at all times".

So far I have managed to resist all of these temptations, mainly of course, because of the risk of damaging the monopod, but also because of the fact that if push comes to shove, I'm quite certain I could not run fast enough, nor far enough, to make my escape.

 Rathtrevor's photogenic fences
Why the headline good neighbour fences? Well all along the trails throughout Rathtrevor Park there are these attractive low level, split cedar log, Cariboo style fences, many adorned with little signs beseeching the passers-by to stay off the revegitated areas. These are my idea of the ultimate good neighbour fence. Sufficiently unobtrusive to never impede a view, sufficiently obvious to clearly delineate your private territory, really attractive in a rustic sort of way, and eminently photogenic.

Oh, and let's not forget the environment, eh... completely biodegradable!

Good neighbour fences

Nimby City, like many other communities, has a bye-law to prevent neighbours, good, bad or indifferent, from building fences, ugly or otherwise, which are more than 6 feet tall... but apparently there is no such equivalent regulation to prevent hedges being grown to a ridiculous stature. In fact some cedar hedges are so tall, and so broad, that they would make shepherds in Africa very proud if they had such structures to protect their flocks from marauding lions and tigers.

Can you imagine a more effective way to block your good neighbour's view, or to make a life long enemy. Talk about the Hatfields and McCoys. I bet the origin of their famous feud was about the height of one of their hedges, and in reality it had nothing at all to do with murder, or the American Civil War, as legend would have us believe. (The McCoys fought on the Union side and the Hatfields were Confederates.)

In more recent times there have been many recorded incidents of neighbours getting out there with their little old chain saws in the middle of the night, or at least during the absence of their malevolent neighbours, and solving the problems for themselves. Why does the law take such a dim view of such a practice? If one individual has purchased a property because of its magnificent view, and some bloke comes along later and blocks that view, surely the offended party should have the right under the law to plead self-defence (pun intended), after cutting the offending obstruction down to size.

Now there's a real man's hedge! And yes Matilda, there is a house hidden away in there!

Perhaps it's just as well that Canada's firearm laws are stricter than those of our "good neighbours" to the south. Although, if you're a member of a gang, or have a marijuana grow op to protect, the laws seem to make remarkably little difference if you really want an uzi or some similar toy... 
                                                                                            national gun registry not withstanding.

(To be continued in my next blog)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The eyes are the windows to the soul.

This quotation is from The Bible, Matthew 6:22-23, to be precise. And no, I have not recently attended church, or taken to secretly consulting the Good Book, I am sorry to say. My source for this information was Google, as usual.

Galileo and his telescope

But the eyes are the windows to so much more. Looking outwards through them, unless you have the misfortune to be visually impaired, you are able to perceive the world around you and everything in it. Both the good and the bad, the beauty and the uglyness. Thanks to the Hubble space telescope which circles the earth every 97 minutes, at some 8km per second, man's range of vision has expanded dramatically since the time Galileo first used his, then remarkable scope, to peer into the stars and galaxy around us.

                                                                                        Hubble's bigger and better one
Of course there are those who look into our eyes and know if we are telling the truth... or not. Perhaps judges and cops, husbands and wives, and poker players all fall into this category. Then there are these more ordinary mortals who can recognize whether we are happy or sad, frustrated, mad, satisfied, amazed, puzzled or whatever our feelings may be at that moment, just by glancing at our eyes... and unfortunately there are those insensitive clods who never notice, nor care about, the effect they are having on those around them. We could certainly all name a few of those folk, if we were only a little less sensitive and more outspoken ourselves.

As I write this, there is a question gradually forming in my own mind. Perhaps you can see it if you peer deeply into my eyes? Could blogging also be a window into the darker corners of a blogger's mind? My own for instance?

Be careful out there, it really is a dangerous world.

"A good man is hard to find"

This was the first line on a birthday card that I received from my dear wife Jean to mark my 78th such milestone (or was that millstone). I admit that was rather a shock until I continued with the balance of the poem - "a time worn phrase but true, that's why I feel so fortunate, the man I found was you".

Sometimes you do have to read further than the headline! But it did rather remind me once again of the time I was struck on the head by a flying purse. (See my blog of 6th April) A different type of shock perhaps, but both resulted in the same question. What the .... have I done wrong now?

Actually, as our kids will confirm, we never argue, though we do disagree on occasion, and we had one such occasion just last week. Jean had been having a series of problems with a rather expensive product she had purchased, and as the contract had included a money back guarantee, it was returned well within its specified time limit. Unfortunately, the refund cheque did not return nearly so promptly. During several subsequent phone calls made in an effort to expedite the cheque, someone's blood pressure rose quite considerably, but eventually the cheque did arrive in the mail, to everyone' relief (I mean me).

That was not the end of the story however, as about a week later, a second item arrived in the mail from the same company - a sincere (I thought) apology card, plus a $50 gift certificate for a meal at our favourite restaurant. But guess what? That apology was not going to be accepted... and the certificate had to be returned on a matter of principle.

Kalvas - The Log House Restaurant

We disagreed, as did everyone else with whom Jean discussed the unfortunate incident (I believe).
And the outcome? We all lived happily ever after, and we had a very pleasant meal at our favourite restaurant... on my birthday.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

You should have been here yesterday!

 If only you could have been here yesterday. That is the the admonition so frequently given by one angler to another, when the fishing turns out to be not so great on that particular day. But, as anglers are also heard to state quite frequently, the sport would be called catching, not fishing, if you could expect go home with one for the fry-pan, every time out.

Nice fish

Tying flies, is often referred to as the art of the fly fisher, and matching the hatch is one of their sacred credos. This latter expression means that the expert should use flies that accurately imitate the genus, species, and life cycle stage, of the insect that their quarry is showing a taste preference for at that particular moment in time.

This in turn encourages many anglers of the fly fishing persuasion to become amateur entomologists, and consequently to become very involved in the study of nature. This apparently entitles at least a few of these fly-boys and fly-girls to assume an air of superiority over the participants in all other forms of the sport. Indeed they frequently refer to the others as bait chuckers, and occasionally use even less attractive epithets, with the addition of a few choice four letter prefixes and or suffixes.

May fly

Of course, I am not one of these hoity toity individuals, believing rather that if you don't have the skill to cast a number 16 midge (that is a very small size), on a 2 pound breaking strain leader (that is very thin) into a head wind, and to drop the fly temptingly, without the slightest splash or even a ripple, with great precision, right beneath a low overhanging tree branch, and precisely in front of a poor unsuspecting trout's nose... then you simply should not be entitled to purchase a fishing licence.

There you are, you blankity blank bait chuckers, now you really know how we superior beings feel. It's actually a bit like the sail-boaters vs. the power-boaters who refer to each other as wind-baggers and stink-potters, as one sort gets in the way of the other out on the water.

Oh yes, we anglers of different preferences, undoubtedly do get in each others' space on the streams and in the lakes... and even afterwards in that other, more comfortable, type of watering hole.

Tight lines everyone!

PIN PIN. Talk about needles in haystacks.

How many of these damned things are we expected to remember. And user names are not much better, although if you use your own name, you might be expected to remember that. But was that supposed to be typed with capital letters, or a space, or period, between your first name and last name?

We have all heard about keeping everything secure to avoid identity theft, credit card rip offs, and so on, but it is almost embarrassing to watch some poor, unsuspecting old person finger pecking away at an ATM machine or one of the latest version of chip reader type credit card scanners, without a care in the world about who might be looking over his or her shoulder, then watching the smile of triumph on their face when the dreaded machine accepts their PIN.

Naturally, you are not supposed to write these numbers down, and certainly not to store them on your computer or in your purse or wallet. But if you have one PIN for each of your credit cards, bank accounts, cell phones, computers, computer programs, social networking sites (and I'm quite certain you could add to this list without any further prompting from me), it can become a major problem.

On top of all that... it is recommended that you constantly change your passwords with the goal of further confusing the bad guys.

Now let's see. What is my 10 digit phone number. I do remember when I used to be able to pick up the phone, and the operator would ask for the number I wished to call - no rotary dials, push buttons or touch pads. My phone number back then was 555. If it was a long distance call, you also had to give the name of your town. Now that I could remember.

Gosh I must be getting really old.

Life is a journey

The other day, because I could not remember the ending of the above quotation,I googled 'Life is a journey quotes'. Amazingly, that query returned 2,459,000 results in 0.12 seconds. Impossible you say! Then just try it for yourself.

Can you imagine having to browse through that lot to find the single one that fits the bill. Other expressions that immediately leapt to mind were: Too much information. Life is too short. How did Google do that. The information age.

But I digress. In any event I decided that it would be less troublesome to complete the quote in my own words, or perhaps those with which my memory is prompting me. Perhaps my name belongs up there with those who have already chosen to use their creative powers of thought and vocabulary to solve this particular meaning of life conundrum. You know names such as Socrates, Plato, Lao Tzu, Aristotle, Confucius, Gandhi, Galileo, Albert Einstein, Churchill etc. etc. No, perhaps my name does not belong in this group.

But there I go digressing again.

Assuredly, life is a journey to be enjoyed along the way, and we should cherish each special moment because it is unlikely ever to recur.

Perhaps one of the reasons that I enjoyed photography so greatly, is that this form visual art has the ability to freeze some of these special moments in time... enabling a return to them in memory, if not in fact.

All aboard?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

That's garbage!!!

One of my many loyal blog followers came up with a great suggested topic the other day. That I should blog about "the great garbage bag rip off'' ... so here it is Russ.

For many years it has been recognized that dumping plastic in land fills (or anywhere else for that matter) is bad, very bad. The damn stuff unfortunately does not biodegrade (a big word for rot). Yet we have persisted in placing our garbage in plastic bags for convenient disposal.

Recently most stores who used to place our groceries in plastic bags at the check out, for our and their handling convenience, stopped doing so in the name of 'the environment'. And who dares argue against protecting the environment? But nearly everyone, previously re-used their plastic grocery bags for garbage, didn't they? Remarkably convenient and sensible that was too, don't you think?

Then the light bulb sprang to life, either at the plastic bag manufacturers' plants, or at the grocery stores head offices, probably both, but it doesn't matter which. They suddenly started refusing to pack our groceries into these hereto free reusable containers, and started instead selling us fancy expensive fabric bags (thoughtfully adorned with their stores' advertising) in which to transport their expensive merchandise to our homes.

So what do we do now with our garbage? Well, of course, we buy bright, shiny, new plastic bags at 20 to 40 cents a pop in these very same stores, to put our waste in before dumping it as usual at the curb on garbage pick-up day. Mind you, if you happen to feel particularly environmentally conscientious, you can purchase the compostable (another big word for rotting) plastic bags at 70 cents each. Wow, what a deal.

Caching, caching. $ $ $. Brilliant plan don't you think?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hi ho! hi ho! - it's off to work we go.

Perhaps this old song, made so popular by Snow White's seven dwarfs, is not so appropriate any more. Going to work used to mean commuting to the office, or factory, or other such formal place of employment, but now it can just as easily signify staying at home and telecommuting, or perhaps even connecting to a virtual office somewhere in another country or another world.

If you're one of these new era individuals, do you miss the face to face contact, the water-cooler tittle tattle, the happy smiling faces of your co-workers, that horrible bullying boss, the prolonged coffee breaks or smoke breaks? Perhaps you just hop onto facebook, twitter, or one of the other new generation of proliferating social networking sites, to compensate for the more tactile real office experiences that you are missing? I wonder if you are still constantly bothered by business related phone calls interrupting your thought process, or is your mind constantly in neutral because your work is so boring?

I seem to blog quite frequently about that intangible thing known as 'progress'. Sometimes my comments are made with tongue firmly planted in cheek, others in a quite derogatory vein, occasionally reflecting substantial pleasure about the improvements that have resulted. I really don't know about telecommuting. I have never had to experience it, and it would almost certainly have been impossible to implement in my industry, home building, at least with respect to the construction itself.

On the other hand, if blogging can be considered as an example of the new way, I may unconsciously have been involved in this form of progress by working from home. After all, blogging is a form of publishing which employs the internet for distribution of the written word, instead of the old fashioned, hard copy, ink and paper system.

Is blogging work, I wonder? I enjoy writing, and used to get paid for it, but you are allowed to enjoy work, aren't you?

National pride and prejudice

Some say that the Scottish race suffers from short arms and deep pockets, and not infrequently the Scots must endure slurs to that effect. But we are a proud people and normally allow such insults to fly away over our heads without response... unless perchance we have been sipping a little too much uisce beatha, the water of life, Scotch whiskey. The Scots also invented the glorious game of golf, but apparently some do not appreciate this special sport. Mark Twain, for instance, apparently pronounced "Golf is a good walk spoiled". Obviously everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion... even if it is entirely erroneous.

The Dutch have a reputation for being very stubborn. They believe that "if you're not Dutch, you're not much". Others have been known to use the expression about the Dutch, "Wooden shoes, wooden head, wouldn't (wooden) listen". And then there are Dutch treats. Who said that Scots are cheap.
Of course there are the Irish. They believe in little green men and have a very strange sense of humour. They too manufacture whiskey... but it sure ain't Scotch. They also claim to have invented the bagpipes, although lord knows why anyone would wish that honour bestowed upon themselves.

There are similar stories to be told, and insults traded, between the peoples of many countries, and there are so many nationalities now represented in our own great country, that these opportunities to be prejudicial continue.

But wasn't it great to experience the extraordinary up-swelling of Canadian patriotism at the recent Vancouver winter Olympic games?

Perhaps you have noticed that many Canadians use hyphenated names to emphasize their heritage by adding a prefix to denote the country of their birth or that of their ancestors, to the term Canadian? Or rank themselves in generations, the more the better? I suspect, when push comes to shove, that we are nearly all proud Canadians at heart (with the possible exception of some Quebecers), and perhaps the significance of that unnecessary prefix will fade with the passage of time.

I'll drink to that. Cheers!  Proost!  Slainte!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mail order world.

The other day my dear wife Jean received via her computer, unsolicited I presume, a spam email suggesting that she might be interested in a mail order Russian bride.

I, on the other hand, received by snail mail, my Cabela's fishing equipment catalogue. I used to await this arrival every year with baited breath... pardon the pun. Unfortunately, since I have been forced to give up angling, because of problems related to encroaching old age, the catalogue was almost as inappropriate as Jean's email.
But I do admit to buying stuff online, especially camera stuff... although first I drive to a real store to check it out, hands on. This must drive the shop owners crazy, don't you think? Mind you, most of the major stores now have their own internet based sales programmes too. I guess its a matter of "if you can't beat them, better join them".

Anyway, I'd just love to see one of the real Cabela's stores now that I wouldn't have to buy anything there. I'm told they are absolutely ginormous. Such a visit might well have cost me a fortune in the good old days.
Then there were the good old Sears catalogues, which were so frequently made available for reading, and/or other purposes, in outhouses around North America, and perhaps in other corners of the world where I have not had the opportunity to explore such utilitarian facilities.
There are many advantages to using the internet for shopping, in addition to the instant access to news and information of all types that it provides. For instance it is incredibly simple and fast to compare prices of both products and services, although some older and less computer savvy folks may have their problems adapting to the new ways, or trusting the internet to adequately protect their identities.
Love it or hate it, that's progress... I suppose.

Blogging with style and substance.

Where on earth do all the topic ideas come from?

I remember when I started writing a biweekly column in our local news paper, I was concerned that the ideas  might dry up. At that time, I was expected to work within a rather limited range of subjects : "The politics of fishing (angling and the commercial fishery)". But as the weeks rolled by, and I built up an inventory of subjects long before my deadlines arrived, I soon began to realize that there was no shortage of targets for my somewhat biased opinions.

When it comes to blogging, where there does not have to be any single overall theme, the world seems to spray out topics with gay abandon. Some of these come from the news of the day, others from just wandering around with eyes and ears wide open, and of course, a notebook at hand in which they can be jotted down before they evaporate from my somewhat ephemeral memory... until I have the opportunity to expand them into the masterpieces which flow so readily from my spell checking, word processing computer programme.

I do prefer that my blogs convey a message, and that they can be written with a casual, tongue in cheek style, a touch of humour, and that they provide an opportunity for both a headline and a punchline. Since there are no deadlines when it comes to blogging, as there were with the newspaper articles I wrote, or with the club and NGO bulletins which I used to edit, or the real estate magazine which I used to publish, writing really is much more enjoyable than it was in years gone by. 

Not forgetting that one picture is purported to be worth a thousand words, I also enjoy illustrating them with my own photography, or the occasional (preferably non copyright) illustration discovered on the internet.

I can only hope that my "followers", as blog readers are known, find them entertaining too.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bang, you're dead.

One day last week we turned on the TV a few minutes before the noon news started. There on the screen was a magnificent male wild turkey with its tail feathers spread wide... as it calculated its chances of romance with a female of the species.
Suddenly there was a very loud bang and the proud male bird collapsed into a pile of trembling feathers. The camera shifted its focus to a beaming young lad with a large gun. He was being congratulated by his father on his first turkey kill.
Now I do enjoy eating turkey for Christmas, or Easter, or at any time for that matter. And I've got to admit to having used turkey quill feathers and those of various other birds like peacocks, as in the example on the right, in the process of tying trout flies with which to capture that sometimes illusive prey for fish dinner. But right before lunch, at a time when many young children might be watching the notorious one eyed monster, could it really be appropriate to go: bang, your dead?
I do enjoy photographing birds, and often times spend hours at a stretch, patiently waiting beside streams or in meadows waiting for them to pose appropriately in front of the camera. Sometimes I just sit quietly watching their antics, or identifying a species with the aid of binoculars and a bird book, if a new one has appeared or one whose name I have forgotten.
I've never personally shot anything larger than a rabbit, and where I come from, these are considered to be pests by farmers and gardeners alike. And I am certainly not a vegetarian or vegan, and absolutely not a subscriber to that PETA cult. Neither do I oppose the seal hunt because I believe there are far too many of them out there in the ocean devouring the fish that I enjoy catching.
I suppose its a matter of each to his own... in this dog eat dog world.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Up the Creek

My wife and I live a happily ever after retirement life in the small residential community of French Creek, half way between the Town of Qualicum Beach and City of Parksville on Vancouver Island. The adjacent Morningstar golf course is just sufficiently far away, that we don't have to worry about the risk of finding golf balls in our martinis, while struggling to relax on our patio during the great summer weather we enjoy as a result of living in Canada's banana belt.

Last year, the arrival of our first traffic light really put French Creek on the map, and needless to say it found itself in the headlines. The event was so significant that both our local provincial legislative representative and the chairman of the regional district, arrived to ceremoniously throw the switch which activated this new LCD adorned appliance... in front of a crowd of at least a dozen excited onlookers. 

Qualicum Beach, not to be out done, built a roundabout at one entrance to their little town... after ripping up the expensive wiring that had thoughtfully been installed during the reconstruction of that particular roadway in advance of that intersection's needs for a traffic light. This major project followed more than a year of rancorous debate at QB's council meetings, naturally with substantial coverage and several headlines in the local newspaper, and it disrupted the traffic flow during construction for what seemed like at least six months.

Parksville, on the other hand, simply erected signs welcoming all and sundry to their fair city, and another set of expensive signs, only a few  blocks apart, marking the entrance to, and exit from their otherwise  hardly noteworthy downtown. These signs are adorned with pretty little imitation starfish and sand-dollars, presumably to advertise the existence of their magnificent beach... which could be seen from their main street until the construction of the high-rises and other view blocking resort buildings that also appeared in the PV down town last year.

But we really, really do love living here.

Spiders can be dangerous you know.

I'm not talking about the hundreds of poisonous species that appear to thrive in Australia, or the tarantulas of America or even the black widows we occasionally find hiding in dark corners in our country. Nor am I referring to the one in the nursery tale that frightened Miss Muffet away. My one was more like the eentsy weenstsy spider from the water spout fable.

Yes, the spider in my story was so small that it was almost invisible without the aid of a large magnifying glass, and it was hanging from a web that was so fine as to be even less visible. But this minuscule creature had the audacity or temerity to suspend itself from the roof of my car just in front of the nose of my dear, but seriously arachnophobic wife, just as she ensconced herself comfortably in the passenger seat beside me.

The reaction was instantaneous. Indeed it was akin to an explosion. I didn't have a snowball's chance in the hot place of avoiding it. Wham, biff, bang, right on the side of the head came a flying purse. A large purse, loaded as usual with everything but the kitchen sink.

Although momentarily stunned, I wasn't knocked unconscious, but I did suffer from whiplash for several weeks thereafter.

And the moral of this story is that flying purses can be even more dangerous than dangling spiders.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

So after all, the world did not come to an end.

At a cost of $9 billion spent over 25 years punctuated by delays and repairs, the largest machine ever built is up and running, and smashing both particles and records.
According to 'Information Week' researchers: Cern's Large Hadron Collider set a record last week by smashing two protons together in a head-on collision and releasing 7 trillion electronic volts (7 TeV) of energy -- three times more than the previous record.
A cutaway illustration of The Cern LHC

Researchers hope to use the LHC to test the Big Bang theory and other theories about the origins of matter, mass, and the universe. The idea is to recreate events similar to those believed to have occurred when the universe formed 4.54 billion years ago, and to study the data for clues to the origin of the universe.

Naturally there were those trying to bring a halt to this work, because they believed that experimenting with these forces of nature might somehow cause another big bang which would cause the end of the world, or perhaps the universe.

There have been many others who have forecast the end of the world, and the most frequently quoted, or rather misquoted is Nostradamus.

In fact I have read that there are countless sites stating that Nostradamus "predicted" that the end of the world would occur in 2012. I have also been given to understand that this is nonsense, written by people who are simply copy-pasting what others have said, without ever having themselves read the prophecies of the medieval prophet himself. Actually Nostradamus predicted events up to the year 3797 in a book published centuries ago... Why should he have written and published all these prophecies from the 16th century to 3797, if he knew - according to his "lost book" - that the world would end in 2012?

Oh my what a relief that is... a great weight has been finally been lifted from my mind. Perhaps I should now look to the Mayan or Gregorian calendars for further reassurance. On second thought, perhaps not... I'd really rather not be forewarned that the end is nigh.

A Paperless World?

Will we live to see a paperless world? Certainly not in my lifetime, but who knows what the future may bring.

Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, which he completed in 1440, was credited not only with a revolution in the production of books, but also with fostering the rapid development of the sciences, arts and religion through the publication of texts.

On the other hand, today many of the major newspapers and publishing houses are failing financially because their advertising revenues are being eroded, or books are being published by their electronic media competition. I, like quite a of my friends, no longer subscribe to printed newspapers, preferring to learn the news from TV or via the internet. And several people I know even purchase their books exclusively as electronic versions, to be read on such recent inventions as Kindles, Sony readers or I-pads.

Misty morning in the Pacific rain forest at Rathtrevor Park on Vancouver Island.

Strangely, despite the fact that many of the pulp mills in the province of British Columbia have ceased operation either temporarily or permanently, the worldwide consumption of pulp is actually increasing. World demand for paper and paper-board was expected to grow from 300 million tons annually in 1999 to over 420 million tons by the year 2010, or an average growth rate of 2.8% per annum.

Unfortunately for BC, although there are many factors to consider in attempting to crystal ball the economic future of this hitherto significant pulp and paper industry in our province, the trend today is for pulp production to increase in areas where the trees grow quickly. Woody material grows by an average of only 4 to 5 cubic meters per hectare annually in northern coniferous forests, but, for example in Brazil or Indonesia, the annual growth is ten times that. Theoretically, a small area of Brazil could meet the entire world’s pulp material needs today.

A paperless world... Well not in the near future, and possibly never, although never is a long long time.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Are we all Nimbys?

If I ever want to wind up my coffee buddies in the Flat Earth Society... which, being of a somewhat mischievous mindset I frequently do, all that it takes is to mention "the bridge".
My wife and I have been fortunate enough to live on Vancouver Island since retiring some 15 years ago. Our little paradise just happens happens to be the largest island on the Pacific coast of North America, less than 2 hours by ferry, or 15 minutes by commuter plane from the the metropolis of Greater Vancouver, Canada's trade gateway to the Pacific.
The bridge to which I refer would be a land link between the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island, and it would free our 3/4 million Island castaways from the drudgeries of long ferry terminal parking-lot wait times, dependency on the weather, obstreperous ferry worker unions, airport security and other such unconscionable inconveniences.
After all in 1997 they opened the Confederation Bridge as an extension of the Trans-Canada Highway between the Provinces of New Brunswick and the sparsely populated (150,000) Prince Edward Island, making travel throughout the Canadian Maritimes substantially more convenient. It took a decade to build that billion dollar, curved, 12.9 kilometre (8 mile) long bridge, the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water, and it endures today as one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century. 
The Confederation Bridge
According to the 40% of the PEI population who voted against that bridge's development, the sky was going to fall and their island was going to sink under the weight of the influx of mainland invaders.
Of course that hasn't happened yet, but it surely would if they were ever to open such an engineering masterpiece between the BC mainland and our Pacific island paradise... at least according to my friends in the flat earth society.