Saturday, 29 September 2007

The whole story

Nine days late - but I only knew about the start of this case from StumbleUpon, and now I know the outcome I am very pleased to pass it along.

Please click on the link embedded in the title to read his whole statement. And note too how a local journalist spoiled the whole thing by making up a quote. That would seem to me to be qa dangerous thing to do when dealing with someone like Mr Righi - and I hope that his experience does not take the fight out of him.

In the last few years Canada, and the UK have become less free: the US looks more and more like a dictatorship. We need more people like Mr Righi to show them that they cannot do this to us.

Karzai offers to talk with Taliban

Whatever happened to that principle that you never negotiate with terrorists? What sort of message does this send - blow up enough people and we will give you a seat in the government? Why are we sending our troops into harm's way - to let these medieval fascists back into power? If Karzai follows up with this proposal Canada should withdraw. Immediately. The Afghans are clearly not willing to stand beside us while we fight for their freedom.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Dental rant

I have just returned from spending half an hour in a waiting room for a dental appointment that took all of two minutes. I was on time for the appointment. If I had broken the appointment I would have been charged for it anyway. It has been a long time since that happened to me, but I have once been very late for such an appointment - stuck in a train as it happens - and that dentist then refused to see me any more at all! (That was before the days of mobile phones)

Only the medical professions think that it is reasonable to treat their customers this way. If that had happened at any other office I would have departed and said that the secretary should contact me with a new time when she could be sure that the meeting would go ahead as planned. It was just for a final check on some gum surgery and in my appointments for today I had allowed for some time, as this particular office has been very bad at sticking to its schedule. My next thing to do was have lunch - and as a diabetic eating at the same time each day is actually quite important to avoid radical swings in blood sugar. But I could have been meeting someone else - and if I had been I would have had to rearrange something.

Why do we put up with waiting? Is is because we feel that other people who are really sick must deserve the attention - which is certainly true at the triage area of the ER. And I do know that with my GP I am pleased when he takes time with me - and I do not feel it's just a quick grab for the prescription pad and out the door, so if I am making other people wait, I must be prepared to wait myself.

I am also not going to get into an argument with a man who has sharp implements in his hands that he is about to put in my mouth.

But a periodontist is not actually dealing with life and limb. None of his work is covered by BC's Medical Services Plan. When I lost my private insurance coverage back in Ontario due to loss of a job, my periodontist there quickly lost any interest in me. We did not even talk about how he could provide some care - or what I might be able to afford. No Blue Cross, no root scraping! So how important is all this stuff anyway? Apparently I am doing a good job with my tooth cleaning - possibly because I now have no choice in the matter. The gum surgery has created more, and more effective, food traps - and I carry a miniature chimney sweep's brush to clear the debris after eating - tooth picks alone are NBG

Harper takes election-style swing at Liberals in defending $13.8B surplus

When in opposition, Mr Harper went after the Liberals for producing bigger than expected surpluses. Now he is in government he is doing exactly the same thing. With the same result. In Canada, when there is an unbudgetted surplus it goes to pay down the debt.
The government said that has allowed it to lower the debt - which stood at $467 billion at the end of the fiscal year - by $14.2 billion.
Which means, I take it, that this situation could continue for the next 33 years!

The bus driver's prayer

The Bus Driver's Prayer - Ian Dury

Our Father,
Who art in Hendon
Harrow Road be Thy name
Thy Kingston come
Thy Wimbledon
In Erith as it is in Hendon.
Give us this day our Berkhampstead
And forgive us our Westminsters
As we forgive those who Westminster against us.
Lead us not into Temple Station
And deliver us from Ealing,
For thine is the Kingston
The Purley and the Crawley,
For Iver and Iver
Crouch End

Food what's British

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Vancouver girl with Down syndrome fights to play soccer

There's been an outpouring of generosity and goodwill for an 11-year old Vancouver girl who has a passion for soccer but was told she could not take part in games because she has Down syndrome.

Sadie Gates said she loves soccer and is excited about having the chance to put on a uniform. Sadie Gates said she loves soccer and is excited about having the chance to put on a uniform.
I am glad to hear it. I would have liked the story to have taken this a little further however and named the official and the organisation which made this appalling decision
the coach told her Sadie could practise but not play on game days because she would be a liability to the team

The coach is just a parent who is volunteering. I strongly doubt that anyone in the association (or whatever society is actually running these teams) has actually told this person not to admit children with disabilities. And don't you love the use of that word "liability" - it sounds so legal and official, doesn't it? But what did the coach actually mean? That their insurance premiums might go up? Or that they might lose a few games?

One of the most disgusting things I ever saw when one of my children started to take part in organized amateur sport, was the ejection of a parent from a game for arguing with the coach. No surprise about that, eh? Well, this was T ball - and the kids were 5 years old! We regularly have incidents where hockey Mums and Dads get into altercations over "ice time" for their ten year olds. Many parents seem to believe that a sports scholarship is the only way to get their kid into post secondary education, and other children are simply obstructions on their way to that goal.

For shame

Chips or Fries

Chips are British. Cut from whole potatoes: big, fat, square in cross section

Fries are American. Thin, made from reconstituted mashed potatoes

Pommes frites are French - look like fries but taste like heaven

I favour the "Molecular Gastronomy" method: The potatoes must be planted in soil constructed thus - 52% moon dust and 40% fine Turkish mountain topsoil. The remaining 8% doesn't matter. The potatoes should be sandpapered, not peeled, using a fine-gauge paper and in complete darkness. Any light at this stage and it's tits-up. Immerse the potatoes ( for between 12 and 42 minutes) in sparkling mineral water, but not Perrier, which has been boiled and cooled 4 times and then filtered through marble. Dry them on pink denim. Heat the mustard oil, which must be Tesco's, to 24.54 celcius and, using a letter opener, "chip" the spuds. Fry for a fortnight, increasing the oil temperature by 0.05 celcius every six hours until golden and tasty.
Posted by uncleleo on September 25, 2007 12:20 PM.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Technology turning citizens into spies

Actually, this may be no bad thing. Although the warning is of course about "false or malicious postings" that can happen without any surveillance equipment at all. And there is always the easy way that pictures can be doctored or cropped to produce a false impression - in the way that the advertising and entertainment business does all the time. Even supermodels get the electronic equivalent of airbrushing.

But I think citizen surveillance is actually a good thing. Jane Jacobs first noted this as "eyes on the street". In cities which work properly, the neighbours sit out on their "stoops". In public places which are safe and attract lots of people there are many who simply go to "people watch". In many societies we recognize the cultural value of the "paseo" - and that certainly sounds more valuable than "hangin' out at the mall".

I have a proposal which may well help reduce road rage. The cause of which is the daily evidence of the unpunished behaviour of the "scoff laws" who treat the roads as their personal domain and care not a fig for anyone else or any regulation. A simple device to control this is not more policing or more traffic cams - but a camera mounted in the nose of a vehicle. This is already done on London Buses to keep cars out of bus lanes. How about a camera mounted where your car maker's logo now sits? With a button on the steering wheel. You see something, you push the button and either a high definition, evidence quality image or short length of video is transmitted. You do not get the opportunity to play with it. With the image goes your data - a gps system pinpoints where the image was taken, and the i/d of the vehicle on which the camera is mounted. The image gets displayed on a web page. With the registered information of the vehicle(s) involved. A database logs the incident and "frequent flyers" get some follow up from the fuzz. The web page is public, since what happened was in the public domain where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The video uses the same technology as the black box - continuous recording but only the minutes around the button push get transmitted at the button push. That should be enough to establish context. Road rage occurs because our sense of justice is offended. The driver who gets cut off in traffic feels the urge to retaliate. That is where the danger starts. The camera satisfies that urge. The instinct to push the button is limited by the consequences. Irresponsible use can also be followed up, if needs be.

This is not "spying" - it is called civic responsibility. It does not provide complete surveillance but it does allow us to do something. When I saw a purse dipper working the crowd in Oxford Street, I did not perform a citizen's arrest. But I did manage to not only confound him but warned the target to close her purse and keep it closer to her body. When I saw a hit and run, I recorded the license plate number on a piece of scrap paper. This just makes it a whole lot easier for "us" and harder for "them". Who, of course, are "us" too

Saturday, 22 September 2007

'Here I am.' Castro's TV rebuff to US death rumours



What annoyed me about the Guardian's coverage was the lack of a link to the original interview. Not that I speak any Spanish at all, but you can form your own opinion of how robust and compos mentis the old man is from actually watching some of the performance. Of course I would prefer that some reliable source would post a version with english subtitles.

I should look and sound like this when I'm 81.

I should live so long.

Let's ban plastic bags

When the small Devon town of Modbury became the first in Europe to reject plastic bags in its shops six months ago cynics said traders and the public would soon tire of their experiment and go back to oil-based polyethylene normality.

Anything but. Not only has the self-imposed ban by the 40-odd shopkeepers held firm with the public accepting alternatives, but now 50 other cities, towns and villages are following Modbury and are in the process of ditching the eponymous symbol of the throwaway society.

They range from London, where the 33 boroughs last week proposed a city-wide ban on all throwaway bags starting in 2009, to the islands of Mull, Arran and Guernsey, which are racing to become the first plastic bag-free island in the world.
What is most encouraging about this movement is how it started - one woman who got annoyed enough to start something - and how quickly the idea got picked up.

We do not need plastic bags. All we need to do is remember to take a reusable bag or two when we go shopping. Or always have a "perhaps bag" in our pockets. Which is what we all used to do not so long ago. When I first worked at Safeway (1965-6), we had free brown paper sacks we gave away - but no-one wanted them since they did not have handles. After a while they brought in British style "carrier-bags (also paper but stronger and with string handles)for which there was a charge , 6d I think. Because you had to buy them they were not popular either.

Some high end retailers have recognized the value of reusable bags and some have become icons. There is a decided cachet about carrying a Harrods bag. Even if it only contains your packed lunch.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Soprano brings Berlin back with her



Except that the image that accompanies this puff piece does not come from Berlin but London's Paddington Station. The train on the left belongs to First Great Western and the one on the right to Heathrow Express

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Government to crack down on loan sharks

This is a story from England.

"Loan sharks" are defined as people who "charge huge rates of interest". In Canada we call these "pay day loan companies" and they operate out of store fronts - they are usually yellow for some reason. They charge rates of interest which are criminal - as defined by the Criminal Code of Canada. But instead of "government's efforts to reduce financial exclusion" as in the UK, our governments are doing everything they can to allow these leaches on the poor to continue to operate.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Quiz

Can you imagine working for a company that has a little more than 500 employees and has the following statistics:

- 29 have been accused of spousal abuse
- 7 have been arrested for fraud
- 19 have been accused of writing bad checks
- 117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
- 3 have done time for assault
- 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
- 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
- 8 have been arrested for shoplifting
- 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
- 84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year

Who are we talking about?

Answer

Greenspan on Bush

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in a memoir to be released on Monday criticized President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans for abandoning fiscal discipline and for putting politics ahead of sound economics.

In his book, "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," Greenspan said he was surprised Bush was unwilling to temper his campaign promises with fiscal reality once elected in 2000, as previous Republican administrations had done.

"Little value was placed on rigorous economic policy debate or the weighing of long-term consequences," he said.

Greenspan said Bush's combination of tax cuts and spending on the military and prescription drug benefits, while not "unrealistic" in 2000 after several years of federal budget surpluses, was not appropriate with growing deficits that
returned in 2002.

The former Fed chair said he urged Bush to veto a string of "out-of-control" spending bills, but to no avail. He was told the president wanted to avoid antagonizing Republican political leadership.

"To my mind, Bush's collaborate-don't-confront approach was a major mistake -- it cost the nation a check-and-balance mechanism essential to fiscal discipline," Greenspan said.
What it really means is that Bush has no idea at all what he is doing. He just does as he is told by senior White House staff.

The Republicans
sowed the seeds of their political defeat in 2006 by abandoning fiscal prudence.
"They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose," he added.


UPDATE

The book also admits that the invasion of Iraq was about oil.

Give us a break


I came across this while looking for something else.

It is put on the backs of buses in London that are in use for training new bus drivers.

The OP wrote "It's incredibly disarming. It would be good if someone could attach this message to the internet and then maybe everyone would be nicer" - but that applies to much more than the internet. It is also amazing how often people needed to be reminded that mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process.

U.K. bank customers scramble to withdraw savings


It's like that scene from "It's a Wonderful Life"

"I've never seen one of those before, but it has all the look of a run on the bank"

I have never seen one either. And never thought I would. Not only did I once work for banks, but one of the compulsory courses I took in Economics was "Money and Banking". And one of the key "take home" messages was how to retain confidence in the banking system, as ordinary people simply do not believe how banking works, and when it is explained to them react the same way as when you explain a simple magic trick to a child. We need to believe and have faith - and most of the time we do. But all it takes it seems is the spread of a rumour. Or in this case the unease of the US secondary mortgage market and the speed with which information (and misinformation) can now be transmitted.

This seems to me more like collective hysteria. The probability that in reality people will lose their savings is so remote that it is hard to measure. But restoring confidence in a market that is spooked is going to be difficult. And this could be the start of a mentality that leads to widespread economic disruption.

In the movie it was Jimmy Stewart. In the thirties it was FDR "we have nothing to fear but fear itself". But we have known for a long time that the property markets have been spiralling upward in an unsustainable fashion. All we can hope for now is a softer landing. But I do not see the simpering chimp restoring confidence.

UPDATE - I have subsequently stumbledupon an article which seems to explain what happened

Friday, 14 September 2007

Cost of an ambulance ride about to change

When I came to Canada I thought it had a public health system analogous to the British National Health Service. Which the British all regard as some sort of sick joke and hope their employer pays for BUPA so they don't have to share an open ward with really sick people if they do have to go to hospital. But is actually quite good - especially when compared to the US, if not Cuba.

Canada I learned is a little different. For one thing hospitals kept asking me for money - or offering to sell me raffle tickets. Now I know they did that in Ireland, but that was before they joined the EU and got rich enough to pay for their own hospitals. But Canada? One of the richest countries in the world - yet they have to go begging to buy a scanner?

Then I had a medical emergency and was carted off to hospital. Got great care and the problem was sorted out. What I really did not expect a few months later was the bill for the ambulance. Which was not only not covered by the provincial health program but was also not covered by the private health insurance either. And for both of those I had deductions from my pay cheque. In fact I was paying much more in tax in Canada than I ever had in the UK, and the service was - ok let's go back to first principles.

Once upon a time we all paid for health care. Which meant most people didn't get any. Since medicine was at that stage pretty hit and miss that really did not make a lot of difference. The barber was also the surgeon. Your granny probably knew more about pharmceuticals that actually worked than the quack did. But people who work in public policy worked out that as a nation we could not afford this approach any longer. For one thing, there were no longer lots of strong young men brought up in the countryside with good diets, fresh air and reasonably clean drinking water - or ale, which, because it was boiled as part of the brewing process, was disinfected. The industrial revolution meant that the strapping sons of the soil were now stunted, pale and sickly. They were not fit for the army.

That was where the concern for health came from. And the Crimea. Which demonstrated that the field hospitals were much more likely to cause death than the enemy. It took a while but eventually the cost benefit analysis of universal, publicly funded health care started to be obvious even to Members of Parliament - as usual the last to come on board.

The working premise of public health was that you got the care you needed, not the care you could afford at the time. There were systems of payment which were based on insurance policies, but it was always recognised that some people would not even be able to pay these small premiums. That did not mean they would be left to charity.

Now there has always been discussion about how to pay for health care. And since it has got better - and much more expensive - there is a profit to be made by better service delivery. Since health care based on need means some sort of "triage" - and people whose pockets jingle do not think they should wait even if the person next to them is visibly bleeding to death. And for some services of very dubious benefit such as liposuction the public health service really does not see as important when burn victims actually need the services of the most skilled plastic surgeons.

So some charging has always been there. And some remedies do not need a prescription and those that do may incur a flat charge, under some circumstances. This stops people going to their doctor for an aspirin.

But charging for ambulances? What the heck is that about? The patient doesn't call the ambulance in most cases. Concerned family, or even bystanders, sometimes qualified first aiders. But if you are suffering a heart attack or have been pulled from a car wreck you are not going to be asked if you want an ambulance or feel up to taking a cab!

And anyway the bill arrives months after the incident. So it is not at all likely to influence behaviour is it? Is there really such a huge risk of people calling the men in the white van for trivial complaints that you need an $80 fee to make them think twice?

Bizarrely, the NDP slags the decision as as a "tax on the sick" but then thinks it should be "levelled down". Why not abolished?

And why isn't it covered by Blue Cross? Comprehensive car insurance means that when my headlight gets taken out by an errant bird they pay. Nothing to do with fault - just they cover that risk, and I pay them to do so.

Does anywhere else in the world charge for public emergency ambulance services?

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Canada will make a decision on joining a U.S. led nuclear initiative in a matter of days

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is denying reports that it has been suppressing information about the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership after documents obtained by The Canadian Press showed negotiations between Canada and other governments have been ongoing for at least a year.

...documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show that the Canadian government has been actively considering the initiative since at least March 2006. Negotiations with the United States began as early as May 3, 2006, and the government had internal talking points praising the GNEP proposal as worth pursuit.

A government briefing document prepared by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, dated March 31, 2006, states that dealing with spent U.S. nuclear fuel is "the main driver" of the proposal:

"With regard to the proposed GNEP fuel cycle, we understand the main U.S. driver is to avoid the difficult issues associated with finding waste disposal sites beyond Yucca Mountain," a former nuclear test site in Nevada that is home to America's nuclear waste repository.

...

The Harper government has yet to publicly state whether the disposal issue is negotiable for Canada or is a non-starter. The implications for Canada's nuclear technology industry have also not been publicly debated.


We need to start that debate now. We must make it clear - as the other major uranium producer, Australia, has done that "repatriation" of American nuclear waste is not on. We have enough problems dealing with our own nuclear waste - some of which goes back to World War II - and is still being argued about. And that's the low level stuff. Gloves and so on used for handling glow in the dark bomb sights. Not "spent" fuel rods.

There is a growing lobby for more nukes, as they appear to "solve" the problem of increasing demand for energy on a planet which cannot cope with more anthropogenic greenhouse gas. But there are worse things than global warming. And not dealing effectively with radio active waste is one of them.

Boycott "Red Truck" brewery



I do not like bullies.

I do not like companies or organisations that use the threat of expensive and protracted litigation to get their own way.

I do not like the sound of this story.
The Red Truck Beer Company of North Vancouver, which brews two beers -- Red Truck Ale and Red Truck Lager -- had told Victoria-based Phillips to cease production of its Blue Truck Ale or they would pursue legal action.
I am a beer drinker and I am not stupid or colour blind. I can tell the difference between a blue truck and a red truck. But what determines what beer I drink is if I like the taste. Sure if the label looks interesting I might pick it up. Trucks don't do as much for me as trains. But I only ever buy on impulse one time. If I don't like the taste, I won't buy the beer again, no matter what the label. And it would not be possible for anyone to confuse the trucks illustrated above! They are quite different.

I have tried Phillips beer - and I have been very impressed with their products. When I see them again I will buy them. I do not recall seeing Red Truck beer but apparently it is widely available in Metro Vancouver (it is sold at the Flying Beaver, for example). I like to support local microbreweries when I can. The big breweries need their noses pulled, hard, for inflicting weak and tasteless beers on a public often deprived of real choice. And that is whom Red Truck should be targetting. Not Phillips. And the battleground should be the quality of the stuff they sell. Not its image or its label - and not other small independent breweries.

I will not drink Red Truck anything, and I ask you to take the same pledge. And maybe the people who inflict Rickard's Red on an unsuspecting public might like to consider going after Red Truck, for similar cause. After all the consumer could well be misled couldn't he?

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Shock wave troopers



It is well worth reading this longish interview with Naomi Klein promoting her new book
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Knopf Canada, $36.95)

Her thesis is that the disciples of Milton Friedman
have learned to take swift advantage of public disorientation in the wake of large-scale catastrophes in order to perform what Friedman himself called economic "shock therapy".
And she uses places like Chile, Sri Lanka and New Orleans to show how it was done - and is still being done.
"The force of that natural disaster," Klein tells the Straight , "was immediately harnessed by international lenders…and the need for tremendous aid was used as leverage to make many of the countries hit by the tsunami, including Sri Lanka, submit to what used to be called 'structural adjustment'–privatization and deregulation."

The Straight tries hard to provide balance, by finding a critic of the IMF (Paul Blustein) who says they are actually well meaning folk doing their best under difficult circumstances and are not actually
[ The Simpsons character] Montgomery Burns, rubbing their hands and counting their chips and trying to think of ways of ruining people's lives.

I must admit I find Klein's analysis a lot more persuasive than Blustein who has, I think, got a bit too close to his subject to be objective. But it does make for a good debate, and there is real reason to question the extent of the Friedmanite revolution and to see the pendulum swing back the other way now.
For tickets, $15, to Naomi Klein's October 4 lecture at UBC's Frederic Wood Theatre, contact the Vancouver International Writers Festival at www.writersfest.bc.ca/ .

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Wikinomics

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams is published by Atlantic Books, priced £16.99.

making things requires collaboration, and finding and linking up all the people who need to collaborate costs money. Companies emerge when it becomes cheaper to gather people, tools and material under one roof, rather than to go out looking for the best deal every time you need a few hours' labour, or a part for a car. But the internet, Tapscott argues, is radically lowering the cost of collaborating. Companies - certainly big companies - are losing their raison d'etre. Individuals, and tiny companies, can collaborate without corporate behemoths to organise them. Considering how many of us spend our weekdays working for big companies, and then spend our weekends giving our money to them, this is a far-reaching thought.

In "The Economy of Cities" Jane Jacobs discussed how cities emerged as economic engines. They made cooperation possible. Right wing economic theorists got misled by their misunderstanding of Darwin. They thought (and many still think) that competition and the "survival of the fittest" was the natural model for the economy. But what Darwin noticed, and they didn't, was that it was not always the biggest and strongest that survived. It was the ones that were most adaptable. And often, co-dependency turned out to be a good survival strategy. The little birds that clean the hippo's teeth do well, but so do the hippos. Darwin noticed a very oddly shaped orchid and deduced that there must be an equally oddly shaped insect to fertilise it. A hundred years later, that insect was identified.

Right now some of the largest, most vertically integrated companies on the planet are having a hard time surviving. GM, Ford and Chrysler. That is because they are having as hard a time adapting to changing circumstances as the dinosaurs did. The first mammals were small and apparently insiginificant. As were the disease microbes. And the coral.

Awareness of what is going on around you is the first requirement. And even if you can't change that, you can change your own response to it. And co-operation is a much more robust strategy since it spreads risk widely. Just like that financial innovation that emerged in a London coffee shop: the re-insurance market.

When will we ever learn?


Since I arrived in Canada, in 1988, I have seen the fishery in Newfoundland die. In the nineties I moved to Richmond, and observed the closure of BC Packers - the last cannery in a town that once depended on fishing. This year has been, once again, a terrible year for the Fraser Salmon. It has never actually recovered from the Canadian Northern Railway blocking up Hell's Gate nearly a hundred years ago.

This article covers Britain's dead sea. It used to be said that Britain was an island built on coal and surrounded by fish. Well both those industries are now almost gone.

Yet Canadians continue to act as though natural resources are limitless. The arguments about salmon have been really depressing. Lots of finger pointing - its always someone else's fault. Whoever is speaking is essentially saying the same thing - it's not us, it's those guys who are taking too many fish.

The article in the Guardian suggest that fisheries can recover, if fishermen let them be for a while. All the fishermen. All the time. No exceptions.

STOP IT NOW

Monday, 3 September 2007

Compare the Prices!

The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1.05274 CAD or 1 CAD = 0.949906 USD (from xe.com)

If you wanted to buy a Palm wifi card from their web page it would cost you CAN$139.99 plus tax and shipping

The same item on their US web site costs US$79.99 plus shipping - except of course they will not ship to Canada.

If the price was the same both sides of the border the cost would be CAN$84.22

I wrote to Palm about this and got a computer generated reply which does not deal with this issue at all.

Take a look at a recently published book. It will have prices on the back for the both countries. Here is one example USA $14.95 Canada $19.50

Is it any wonder that Canadians like cross border shopping and renting PO Boxes in Point Roberts?

(I got the card even cheaper on ebay!)

Please don't bomb us Mr. Bush!


August 30, 2007

George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, DC


Dear Mr. President,

I wish to inform you of a recent, potentially deadly flashpoint in Alberta, Canada; to plead for your understanding; and respectfully request that you do not bomb us.

On August 28, 2007 Energy Alberta applied to build a nuclear power plant on the Peace River in Alberta.

Knowing how dead set you are against Iran, North Korea and other stupid governments building nuke power plants, I hope you would understand Alberta's proposed plant is for peaceful purposes only. In fact, this nuke would actually help your own economy considerably. It would be used to extract oil from the tar sands.

So it would be kind of dumb if you were to nuke it before this marvel of technology could be put to good use.

Even without a PhD in Nuclear Physics, the concept is simple enough for most to understand.

Mine a whole bunch of Uranium in open pits in Saskatchewan.

Make a controlled chain reaction in a nuclear pile in Alberta with a temperature of a thousand degrees.

Use the heat to turn water into super-hot steam (a several hundred degrees) to clean the oil out of the tarry sand.

Use the local lakes and rivers to keep the nuclear pile cool so it doesn't overheat and go critical.

And then bury the radioactive waste in Ontario.

All the left over tar and pollution will run north toward the arctic, where there's only a handful of people anyway.

And you get all the oil!

Since Canada is self-admittedly, at best, a loose confederation of shopping centers, you should be able to get the oil real cheap, and even pay in US dollars.

Please appreciate Mr. President that we are building this nuclear power plant for you and we're doing everything possible to be your friend and good neighbor. Please do not bomb us.


_______________________________________
The People of the Peace River country

They don't call it the Peace River for nothing


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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'Alternatives To Nuclear Energy' Netletter

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Sunday, 2 September 2007

the likes and dislikes of a 95-year-old blogger

Great article with a link to her blogger page. Mostly in Spanish. And also, mostly, at present, reprints of articles about her in other media.
"I must be the oldest socialist activist in Spain," she said. "I've been socialist since I was 16"
She reminds me a lot of my mother, except that my Mum could never get on with technology - even her new electronic typewriter baffled her.

Her dislikes include daytime pill-popping, crude language and telephone companies that are slow to install broadband. Her main loves are poetry, politics, childhood memories, her native region of Galicia, a Jesus Christ who dislikes wealth and, she says, "the workers".

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Cancer warning for stressed-out men

Prostate cancer kills one man in Britain every hour and 10,000 each year - the equivalent of a Lockerbie air disaster every week. But Professor Roger Kirby, chair of Prostate Research Campaign UK, said that many of these cases could be related to intolerable stress at work.


The warning should be directed to employers. I don't have Canadian data to hand but I would suspect it is similar or maybe worse. The workplace became a lot more stressful in the 40 years I have been at work. And it did not start off as stress free either. But the Thatcher revolution in Britain, and its counterpart in North America, meant that all the workplace security that we used to enjoy has been stripped away. That is why the big issue in the current Vancouver civic workers strike is job security. Just as was for the bus drivers a few years ago.

Everybody has seen their workplace downsized, outsourced, contracted out - whether they work for the public or private sectors. The old social contract, that in return for dedication, training and increasing job skills you could expect a job for life and a pension at the end has gone. It is now expected that an individual will have four or five different careers in a lifetime.

Many jobs are contracts - with no benefits. And the pay is much worse in real terms. Very few jobs have kept the real value of the wages. The minimum wage has not been increased despite increasing prosperity, better business conditions and in many trades shortage of workers. Employers are bleating that they cannot recruit people to, for example, pick fruit, but it never occurs to them that perhaps hours of back breaking manual toil for less than minimum wage is not exactly an appealing proposition.

People who do have jobs are expected to keep their heads down and not complain, while management treats them as disposable as tissues. They are not consulted, they are not expected to think, nor are they treated with even common courtesy. One employer expects his workers "on call" to be responsible for coming to the place of employment just in case they might be needed. NO phone call or web site. Both would cost the employer a tiny sum of money. Much better to put the onus on the worker.

The government has gradually pulled back from its pro-active stance to protect workers' rights. Only the WCB seems to have kept its guard up. And labour lawyers will tell you flat out that you may be right, but suing is not an option since the employer has far more resources than you do, and can keep a case going for years with no result, just to exhaust the complainant and his bank account.

Men bear the brunt of this because they still think of themselves as the breadwinner. They still identify themselves by what they do at work. And they still are anxious about not getting fired for standing up for what they know to be right.

Small wonder that it is nearly always men that "go postal". And for every one that does there are thousands "living lives of quiet desperation"

According to Kirby, men need to change their approach to work so that they operate more like their female colleagues. 'Women tend to work less competitively than men, don't get as aggressive, stressed or allow their anger to flare up.' he said.


He could be right. But maybe we should look first at what has happened to our workplaces under the pressures to produce. To look solely at the bottom line, or some artificial "target". To ignore the personal cost that delivering ever increasing returns to the shareholders, or more to the performance target, has imposed on us as rounded human beings.

Hoist by his own petard

Idaho senator resigns over sex scandal


It is not often that you can see the workings of karma, but there is a nice sense of fitness when you do.

I have never heard of Larry Craig. But he is a right wing Republican and "a vocal opponent of gay rights in the U.S.".

He also says "I am not gay, I never have been gay. I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport"

But he pleaded guilty to "a reduced charge of disorderly conduct" because he was afraid of the publicity - which got him anyway. In fact he blames his fall on the Idaho Statesman. That is not a paper I have ever heard of before either, so I cannot comment on that.

But without Senators and other law makers like Larry Craig there would not be laws against what consenting adults do, though there does need to be some sanction when they do it in public places. As Lady Ottoline Morel remarked "I don't care what people do in private, but don't do it in public and frighten the horses." Although inside a washroom cubicle you might argue about how public that is.

But what on earth do we say of a society that thinks using police personnel for "sex sting at a men's washroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport" is a useful use of resources? If the policeman had not been there, there would have been no crime. I am not gay either, and I am absolutely immune from taking any offence if the man in the next stall taps his foot. I would not have recognized that as a gay come on until the media told me about it. A hand under the partition is usually accompanied by a request for toilet paper. An event of no concern except for complaint to the airport that they need to check their washroom supplies more often.

Mr Craig you richly deserve your fate. Your refusal to recognize that 5% of the population who do not share your sexual orientation are entitled to the same treatment as everyone else (which is what the phrase "gay rights" means)has dealt you the blow that lead to your fall. Learn from that lesson. Stop blaming the media, and don't think that it is your political opponents who have brought you down. You are the architect of your own fate.

I suggest you read the biography of John Profumo. Perhaps you too can become a useful member of society for a change.

And to the Idaho law enforcement agencies I would suggest that there are far more serious offenses that need something done about them. Offenses that cost people their lives, or their property, or their rights. That is where your attention should be. There are a lot of laws you do not police diligently. This must be one of them. Divert the sex sting team to look for road rage.

POSTSCRIPT

for some illuminating analysis of this case go to The Observer

The decline of English

We do not have the equivalent of the Academie Fran├žaise for our language. That is because it is based on usage. Which means that Humpty Dumpty rules.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

Or, worse, Mrs Malaprop.

The word "enormity" used to mean "monstrous wickedness" and was therefore useful to describe unusual events such as the holocaust. Now, thanks to its overuse by the media, it just means "very big".

Here is the latest example I have come across of how words get twisted out of shape

"I wasn't going to hit him back," he said. "I was just afraid that I was going to be implemented in all of this."


I have italicised the solecism. Its source is second hand. Randy Cassingham's "THIS is TRUE: 26 August 2007 (Copyright) But he was quoting The Lake County News-Sun - which I will bet did not even notice. Cassingham said he did but regards it as "part of the fun". I don't. I can now see a day when the word "implicated" means something else - like covered in chocolate sprinkles, or something.

I suppose that makes me a humourless pedant. But there is no doubt that the language is being degraded through a combination of poor education and mass media that has no standards regarding language worth speaking of - unless it is to worry about swearing before 9pm.

And if you haven't heard of Cassingham

Randy Cassingham, Online Publisher since the Internet Dark Ages (1994)
AMUSE: http://www.ThisIsTrue.com
HOWL: http://www.StellaAwards.com
FIGHT: http://www.SpamPrimer.com
TYPE: http://www.Dvorak-Keyboard.com
LAUGH: http://www.JumboJoke.com
VENT: http://www.CrankyCustomer.com
SMILE: http://www.GOOHF.com
SURF: http://www.BonzerSites.com