Wednesday, 30 May 2007

The Tyee - promotional video

The Tyee is a free on line news source that is not owned by any big media conglomerate. It concentrates on stories of interest to British Columbians.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Aboriginals may be allowed to hunt otters



Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun
Published: Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Europeans almost hunted these animals to extinction. Now the population has recovered enough that protected species designation is being withdrawn.
The Nuu-Chah-Nulth Council of Hereditary Chiefs also last month "asserted that they have an aboriginal right to harvest sea otters and that they will exercise that right,"

The image comes from Canku Ota (Many Paths) "An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America" and it may be that it is copyright but I assert my right to steal this image to make a point on my blog. If you start killing and skinning these delightful creatures, you will be as popular as the Newfie sealers. I must confess I found I had very little sympathy with them when they got stuck in the ice recently.

Joe Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee said in Vancouver that while he suspects the Nuu-Chah-Nulth have the right to hunt sea otters, he hopes they choose not to.

Indeed

A banner ad I want

There are not many times when I pay attention to banner adds. And even fewer are the times when one makes me laugh out loud. This one appears on the Vancouver Sun web page today, and I am sorry I have no idea how to copy it.

It is from my credit union - which has demonstrated recently that it does have a sense of humour - or employs an ad agency with one. They are pointedly attacking the banks for their ridiculous charges. This looks like a till roll and actually clocks up the total every time your mouse passes over the add. It even clocks up the charge if you just galnce at it and don't click it. Brilliant!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Where have all the hippies gone?

According to the Observer


Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada

Dubbed the 'coolest island in Canada' by the Washington Post, Salt Spring is home to 10,000 free spirits, artists, writers, alternative therapists and a sizable Buddhist community. It is awash with rocky inlets, kayak-friendly rivers, evergreen forests and a tradition of tolerance. Also, thanks to liberal Canadian laws, a faint whiff of marijuana still tends to waft on the breeze. Salt Spring's lifestyle fest reaches its zenith at the market in the main town of Ganges, which sells crafts and organic food. There are many B&Bs on the island, including Cloud 9 Oceanview (001 250 537 2776; www.cloud9oceanview.com), where doubles start at £75 a night, including breakfast. The easiest way to reach Salt Spring is to fly to Vancouver, from where you can get a seaplane. Companies include Sea Air Seaplanes (001 604 273 8900; www.seairseaplanes.com), Kenmore Air (001 866 435 9524; www.kenmoreair.com) and Harbour Air (001 604 274 1277; www.harbour-air.com).


Now the Guardian and its related enterprises are banging the drum for sustainability, but once again neglect to mention that you can get to Saltspring by a much more environmentally friendly ferry service

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Al Gore "The Assualt on Reason"

From the Daily show, an interview with the man who should be running for President, and why tv is to blame and why the internet could come to our rescue.

And yes, he is just flogging his book, but at least it looks like something that we should be reading

Michael Moore's first interview for two and half years

He has taken some pretty hard hits recently. Now that his new film "Sicko" has been released at Cannes he has started talking again. Watch this interview with Bill Maher

"Loonie soars to new 30-year high"


This Vancouver Sun story is at least a bit more balanced than the one yesterday on CBC.

The Sun notes that the rate reflects more on the weakness of the US dollar

However, there's more than the weakness in the U.S. dollar behind the strength of the loonie, said Clement Gignac, chief economist at the National Bank of Canada, which is predicting the loonie will be at parity with the U.S. within 18 to 24 months.

"The strength of the Canadian dollar can no longer be laid solely to weakness of the greenback," Gignac said. "The loonie has appreciated against almost all currencies."

The loonie, for example, is at a 15-year high against the Japanese yen, reflecting the impact of the so-called carry trade, in which investors borrow low interest rate yen securities and convert them into higher-yield securities, including Canadian dollar securities.


But what I have been watching recently is the rise of the Canadian dollar against the UK pound

The chart at the top shows what was happening and a confident prediction of continued increases.



Now maybe this is more to do with Mr Brown - and I do understand that much of our trade is with the US. But I think that CBC type reporting has more to do with nationalism than economics and I would like to see a more balanced approach, perhaps against a trade weighted basket of currencies, than just this obsession with the US dollar, and our propensity to pop south for a little smuggling.

Both charts courtesy of Pacific Exchange Rate Service

Friday, 25 May 2007

The Vancouver Bus Driver Hero

I have just added Heroic Stories to my link list. It is not a blog. More of a newsletter. I wanted to acknowledge the story that identifies a Vancouver bus driver as a hero.

And the writer shows just how confused she was.

Amazingly, the driver pulled the bus over, stopped and called me to the front. He began printing tickets from his machine and numbering them. He gave me detailed instructions as to which buses to take, and how to understand the bus system.

I was shocked. He spent a good twenty minutes with me, telling me everything I needed to know, before giving me the tickets. I thanked him repeatedly, and asked him how much I owed for all the tickets. "Nothing. Just please get yourself home to the Yukon, young lady. You belong there."


She only needed one transfer (not a ticket - simply proof of payment valid 90 minutes. Printing more than one would have no benefit). She should have got a transfer when she paid her fare i.e. when she boarded. But at least this way she still got another 90 minutes. And to get from Surrey to the Aquarium would be one or two transfers at most but would have been quickest by SkyTrain. And it would not take twenty minutes to explain that.

And I wish the driver had not patronized her that way. We get all sorts of tourists in the big city and we do not need to tell them they are rubes.

But it's a nice story, so let's not not pick it to death.

Towel Day

I'm a bit late on this one

alt="Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)"
width="468" height="60" border="1" />

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Post-breakup depression harder for men

Like so many studies, this one just seems to state the obvious. Except that the article does not state that the loss of a relationship is an incredible blow to one's self esteem. Not just that things went wrong, but the person you were with then, now thinks that it's not even worth trying to patch things up. And the longer a relationship has lasted, the harder that will be. I think the thing about "harder for men" is just sexist nonsense. It is harder for some individuals than others, depending on the circumstances and the individual. Generalizing on the basis of gender just plays into the hands of the small minded sub-editor. It tells us nothing.

Although it could be due to the fact that women are more likely to stay in a family setting - they nearly always get custody of the kids. The Dad is simply discarded as unnecessary. Mum still has the family and the home. Dad is now on his own. No wonder he gets depressed.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Train spotting

An article form the Wall Street Journal shows that good things happen to places that make the best of what they have got.

So many places are being shut off to people who just like to watch - and photograph - trains. Surely one of the most innocent of hobbies. The composer Dvorak was a keen train spotter. Security has become the most frequent excuse. "You might be a terrorist" I was told at Liverpool Street Station in London. "You are not supposed to be here" said a railway employee: I was on a platform at a station! "You are getting in the way." I was standing on the shoulder of a public highway.

The real issue facing the railways is vandalism, and casual trespassers. The presence of law abiding citizens with cameras and a dislike for the sort of people who enjoy damaging or endangering the railway and themselves can only help. Many published photos and videos on the internet show that it is the idiots who run crossings, or walk across or on the tracks, who are the problem. But in most places ugly fences are the universal response.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Leo Kottke

So I lost Pandora, but there is something similar called Musicmesh which allowed me to find some video footage of a concert - I suspect bootlegged and unauthorised and with a very inattentive audience in Pavilion Park in Liberty Lake, WA on July 22, 2006


Saturday, 19 May 2007

Parking in residential areas

Parking can get to be a problem if a residential area is next to another major traffic attractor. My Mum's house, for example is conveniently located near to a tube station. So no-one can park outside it on Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm because that is where the commuters park. So they can avoid the station car park fee.

This guy lives near a college so he has another problem

Excerpt from Al Gore's new book

Al Gore's new book is called "The Assault on Reason" and an excerpt is now available

I have been a student of American politics for over 40 years. At university, I picked "American Studies" since it looked like a soft option, but I quickly became enmeshed, and instead of taking the literature course that most of my contemporaries chose, I took Law and Politics, which had the reputation of being "hard" but I found fascinating. What I did not understand then, and have slowly come to understand is that very few Americans actually know very much about their constitution - or even their own history. The story of the black actor reciting the Declaration of Independence on a plane and getting arrested happened long before 9/11.

Gore deplores the decline in the quality of decision making. When momentous debates should be taking centre stage, the public is fascinated by Paris Hilton.

This is not just about America, because western civilization (so called) seems to have become a mirror of what we have watched, passively and uncritically for the last century. First in the cinema, then on the tv, now on the net.

I will say again, I wish Gore was running for President

US government trying to seize new Michael Moore film, says producer

This story is one of those that if it isn't true it is not surprising. As Moore himself remarks, it saves money on advertising. The Bush administration could well be silly enough to pursue Moore for going to Cuba without permission. But then lots of Americans do that already. They just get planes from Canada.

The important point for me is that it is going to bolster opposition to the vested interests who are trying to create a two track healthcare system here. It already exists in Britain. I remember when it really got started. There was a period when as part of a failed attempt to control inflation, controls on prices and wages were introduced. And employers got around that by giving people they wanted to reward company cars and BUPA memberships. And both quickly became status symbols. Some private healthcare was in fact very suspect in terms of quality. The Royal Masonic Hospital for example was famous for being more punctilious about serving tea on time than doing CPR in a timely fashion. Private mental health was even more of a minefield: what better way to rid oneself of an embarrassing relative than have them locked up in luxury at a private clinic?

Moore's films are predictable but necessary, and I look forward to seeing this one. Eventually. On DVD.

Monday, 14 May 2007

It's time to install Linux

I have been trying to wean myself off my M$ dependency for some time. I did try lots of versions of Knoppix, which isn't bad, but frustrated me. I am really pleased with Ubuntu which is very easy to install and even easier to run. But don't just take my word for it - watch this video

This system is a lot cheaper than Vista - either as a new install or upgrade. It's free.

Couple of things to know before you start. If you must have the latest and greatest hardware and peripherals, then it may take a while before the Linux community gets around to building drivers. But if you are like the rest of us and trying to make your existing kit last a bit longer, you should have no problems. Linux runs on FAT32. While it can read ntfs, writing may cause issues. There is software that enables this on Knoppix but not as far as I can determine so far a way to do this yet with Ubuntu. Maybe someone reading this will bring me up to speed if I am wrong.

Linux boots and shuts down much faster than Windows, is much safer (very few malware writers have got around to trying to bring it down or to crack it and as it is community supported and open source is a lot more secure) and takes up much less disc space. If you have got fed up with Windows nagging you about deleting programs from your hard drive just so it can make thousands of back ups for itself, then Linux is for you.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Those fanatical atheists

A very useful, timely article from Saturday's Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, 5 May 2007

MSN does something right

It has become something of a fashion to slam everything that comes out of Redmond on principle. And I must admit that my preferences have been to go for community supported, open source wiki type apps lately.

BUT

There are some areas where as an old geezer I am sadly deficient. And I don't just mean my typing skills. Many years ago now I taped a broadcast concert which had Leo Kottke as the opener. And I really liked that style of guitar playing, though I would be hard pressed to tell you what it is exactly. See, I have a blind spot for the labels that the industry puts on music. What, for example, is "alternative" supposed to mean? I know I generally dislike heavy metal or country - but not to the point where I would never listen to any of it. And every so often my kids (who always commandeer the car radio) find a song on a station I have never heard of and I think "Hey, I like this!" but what "genre" it might be I have no idea.

So anyway even though I have an old cassette tape of Kottke lying around somewhere, I never found a CD of his. And I get to hang around all sorts of record shops with and without the kids. You would think that the advent of downloading and so on I would have found more but maybe Kottke is not popular enough or is good at DRM. Or maybe I wasn't bothered enough to go look for his music. But having heard some on the radio recently (CBC Radio 2 actually - Jurgen Gothe) I looked him up again and started hitting pay dirt. There's a neat way to search Google for music that's explained on YouTube. (No, I won't give you a link. You know how to use a search engine and anyway you might find something else even better).

After a while I found www.pandora.com which allows you to create your own "radio station" - something that they and MSN figured out. (Aha! he does come back to the point eventually) This neat gadget plays me a Kottke track then some Cockburn - even better - and then something I don't like as much. But that's alright because you can tell it what you like and what you don't like. For the last hour or so I have been listening to some brilliant guitar picking by people I have never heard of. It's playing someone called Brooks Williams right now. And I still don't know if this is a genre or not.

Oh, and the best thing is that it is free once you register. Just give it a zip code. If you don't actually live in one it's not that hard to recall a real one is it?

UPDATE May 14

I have just received an email from Pandora that says that since my IP address is in Canada they are going to block me listening to their service.

Due to international licensing constraints, we are deeply, deeply sorry to say
that we must begin proactively preventing access to Pandora's streaming service
from Canada. We began blocking access from almost all countries outside the U.S.
last week and had originally hoped to maintain access to Canada. However, it has
become clear in the last week that we just haven't been able to make enough
progress to continue streaming.

Friday, 4 May 2007

BC Ferries acts - at last

The Globe and Mail is now reporting that the three BC Ferry workers who were on the bridge at the time the Queen of the North hit an island and later sank have been fired.

On the advice of union lawyers, Mr. Hilton and Mr. Lilgert earlier refused to answer questions by company investigators about what happened in the final, crucial 14 minutes leading up to the crash. Ms. Bricker did answer some questions about that period but investigators found many of her answers suspect.

Their refusal to provide information is the thing that most people, I think, had the hardest time dealing with. It stems from the quite reasonable fear that they could be sued by those who suffered loss in the sinking. So on the face of it, their refusal to speak is understandable. But they could not refuse to answer questions from the Transportation Safety Board. That report is apparently finished but has yet to be published.

Accidents happen, and it is important that we all understand why they happen so that they do not happen again. Fear of litigation should be put aside in the interests of the safety of all. If necessary, by giving immunity to those who give evidence. The compensation for victims can come from public funds or insurance - depending on how responsibility is allocated. But individuals while they can be held to account (and in losing their jobs these three seem to have paid the price) should not be held to risk ruin in civil suits that can drag on interminably and only serve to enrich lawyers. We must avoid getting ourselves enmeshed the the compensation culture that contingency fees and jury awarded damages have bred south of the 49th.

Air India bombing

I sit in wonder at the information coming out of the Air India inquiry. It beggars belief. If you had written this in a novel, it would not get published. If you talked about this in your workplace coffee room no one would believe you. But CSIS and the RCMP had specific information. And all they had to do was check the baggage on one airline. And, as we had been doing in Europe for years, making sure that every piece of baggage in the hold matched every passenger. I can recall having to do that on the tarmac at Stansted for a Jugotours flight. In the seventies.

But they did nothing. And for over twenty years, no one said a word.

Once upon a time the Mounties had a reputation to be proud of. This comes upon the heels of a scandal over their pension fund. Zacardelli has become a familiar figure on Parliament Hill, explaining things to committees.

Now I suggest we simply scrap them. Just like the Royal Ulster Constabulary lost all credibility and had to be replaced.

UPDATE JUNE 16

RCMP needs major shakeup: federal investigator's report

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Intro

Well every so often I find things I want to log and sometimes Wordpress or stumbleupon are not what I want. Or it says "link this" and I push a button and nothing happens.