Archive for November, 2007

Fire extinguisher training – as much fun as Nintendo Wii

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

I spent most of yesterday in a compulsory safety training session. Part of the course included hands-on fire extinguisher use. However instead of using a real fire, we used a fire simulator. With the appropriate name “PyroSoft“, the system included a large rear-projection screen, with modified fire extinguishers that point a beam of light at the movie playing on the screen, and compressed air providing authentic sound.

Poor technique, such as directing the propellant at the middle of the flames instead of the base, or not sweeping fully to the sides of the burn area, result in “re-flash”, and a poor time.

So how did I do? Let’s just say that for some reason I was able to put out the “cabinet fire” a lot faster than the fire burning in a pool of gasoline. Based on my time, no fire department would hire me. No career change for me.

However it was kind of fun.

A prophet among us

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Pastor Randall has clearly been given the gift of prophesy, having correctly predicted, from the pulpit, the outcomes of all four CFL post-season games thus far.

Read the prophetic word here.

I have faith that his greatest prophesy will also come to pass this Sunday.

A Beacon of … creepiness?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

It’s now been about a month since I got my Facebook account, and I still feel ambivalent about the experience. It’s been fun connecting with some people I haven’t connected with lately. However I am a bit concerned about the potential for too much personal/confidential information getting shared with not only Facebook “friends” but with the world.

However what really strikes me as creepy is the newly announced Facebook Beacon. If I understand it correctly, it’s an advertising scheme that will allow Facebook users to add companies to their “friends” list. Subsequently the user’s activities with that “company friend” will be shared on Facebook. For example if I add Blockbuster to my friends list, and then rent Earnest Goes to Jail, the Facebook community may see that choice as being representative of my movie taste (well maybe it is representative, but not everyone needs to know that).

If that loss of privacy is the price I need to pay for a free service, don’t expect me to stick around Facebook.

I think the title of this Globe and Mail article, “Creepy genius Facebook Beacon” is appropriate.

Bread De-Cruster

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Spotted at the local supermarket.

Wonder De-Cruster

Now I won’t need to hire someone to cut the crusts off my bread.

Wonderful .

Underdogs

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

The experts were calling the 2nd place Saskatchewan Roughriders the underdogs going into today’s Western Final against the 1st place B.C. Lions. I can’t say they won in convincing style, with a lot (most?) of their points coming from turn-overs. However the final score of 26-17 in favour of the ‘Riders is what matters.

The big one will be next Sunday, when the ‘Riders will play the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the coveted Grey Cup. The ‘Riders had a slightly better regular season this year. Is the difference between a 12 win – 6 loss season versus a 10 win – 7 loss – 1 tie season enough to call the Bombers underdogs?

Nothing but does and fawns

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Michel and I spent part of today hunting at Shell Lake. We saw several does and fawns, a couple of ruffed grouse and snowshoe hares, and a coyote. However no bucks were spotted.

After devouring another of Sarah’s amazing meals, we started the trip home, only to come across Rachel who had hit a doe with her car. The car wasn’t damaged, but the deer needed to be dispatched. A real shame.

The Iverson Quarter has new owners

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Awhile back I discovered that three quarter-sections that we have been hunting on for decades were for sale. One of the quarters adjoins my brother Marv’’s land. Marv and Ray were moaning about the fact that it seems every year more local land gets sold to out-of-province buyers who promptly post it “No Hunting”, and they were afraid that these pieces of land might also soon be off-limits.

For a long time I have wanted to have a private woodlot of my own, and the quarter-section north of Marv’s place seemed a worthy candidate. However when I discovered the asking price of the land, I knew that footing the bill on my own would be a non-starter, so I placed a phone call to Glenn G, former pastor of the Mont Nebo Evangelical Free Church, very good friend of my brother, and a long-time hunting partner and friend. I knew that Glenn had expressed interest in buying it many years ago, so I asked him if he and Gloria would be interested in teaming up with Janet and myself in a joint purchase. It didn’t take long for them to say “go for it.”

After a few weeks of dealing with realtors, lawyers, bankers, etc., we can now say that we are the proud co-owners of 160 acres of our own.

Not everyone would be excited about owning “The Iverson Quarter”. It has broken the hearts of several farmers in the years since the first Norwegian immigrant homesteader first started clearing off the trees to discover marginal, rocky soil barely capable of growing a crop. A couple of small fields were abandoned about 20 years ago and are reverting to brush with aspen and the odd spruce tree. There is one field, 33 acres in size, that is still used for growing cereal crops. In fact this year’s crop (I believe it’s a variety of bearded wheat) was swathed but never combined. However most of the land is still treed, consisting mostly of mature trembling aspen, with a scattering of white spruce, and some pockets of willow and other shrubs.

Frankly it’s crappy farmland. However it’s nice deer habitat, and that’s what I’m mostly interested in.

We’ll probably rent out the field, and hope that the rental income at least pays the taxes. I think growing alfalfa would be a good idea, since the deer love it. Our only real plan for the near future is to do some trail construction, with the removed trees used as firewood. My inner silviculturist has some woodlot management plans, but they’ll need to be discussed with Glenn and Gloria. Dreams for the future might include a log cabin.

A couple of weekends ago both families spent a day at Shell Lake, including a walk around the property. Here’s a pic including most of us.

The estate

It’s hunting season, hence the high-visibility colours in this picture.

I told my kids that since we would soon be landowners, we needed to start behaving as the landed gentry, so I was bringing my tweeds, a walking stick and my pipe. Charlotte dryly replied that chewing tobacco would be more appropriate. So much for putting on airs.

Happy Birthday to Janet

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

She looks young, but she isn’t as young as the candles on the cake would indicate.

Janet Birthday

(By the way, I presented her with a practical kitchen appliance for her birthday. She still loves me)

Don’t that common sense make no sense no more?

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Today I received an email from a colleague which included, down in the signature line, a quote supposedly by Thomas H. Huxley, “Science is organized common sense where many a beautiful theory was killed by an ugly fact.”

I’ve been mulling over that quote on and off all day, and I couldn’t quite decide whether I agree with it or not. I place a high value on the kind of common sense that my mother had, but that old song by folkie singer-songwriter John Prine kept running through my brain

They got mesmerized
By lullabies
And limbo danced
In pairs
Please lock that door
It don’t make much sense
That common sense
Don’t make no sense
No more

Moving on from folk songs, I ran a Google search on the Huxley quote, and found an interesting opinion column in the New York Times, “In Defense of Common Sense“, by John Horgan. He mentions that Huxley made that statement in an era before Einstein, about 100 years ago, proposed a couple of theories that seem to defy common sense …

… But quantum mechanics and relativity shattered our common-sense notions about how the world works. The theories ask us to believe that an electron can exist in more than one place at the same time, and that space and time – the I-beams of reality – are not rigid but rubbery. Impossible! And yet these sense-defying propositions have withstood a century’s worth of painstaking experimental tests.

As a result, many scientists came to see common sense as an impediment to progress not only in physics but also in other fields. “What, after all, have we to show for … common sense,” the behaviorist B. F. Skinner asked, “or the insights gained through personal experience?” Elevating this outlook to the status of dogma, the British biologist Lewis Wolpert declared in his influential 1992 book “The Unnatural Nature of Science,” “I would almost contend that if something fits in with common sense it almost certainly isn’t science.” Dr. Wolpert’s view is widely shared. When I invoke common sense to defend or – more often – criticize a theory, scientists invariably roll their eyes.

The leading candidate for a unified theory (explaining quantum mechanics and general relativity) holds that reality stems from tiny strings, or loops, or membranes, or something wriggling in a hyperspace consisting of 10, or 16 or 1,000 dimensions (the number depends on the variant of the theory, or the day of the week, or the theorist’s ZIP code). A related set of “quantum gravity” theories postulates the existence of parallel universes – some perhaps mutant versions of our own, like “Bizarro world” in the old Superman comics – existing beyond the borders of our little cosmos. “Infinite Earths in Parallel Universes Really Exist,” the normally sober Scientific American once hyperventilated on its cover.

For the full article click here.

The author arrives at the conclusion that, “ultimately, scientific truth must be established on empirical grounds.”

Common sense seems to tell me that his conclusion is true.

War casualties

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Tonight while browsing the online news websites I came across an article about the Remembrance Day service in Ottawa, that gave some statistics on the number of military casualties in five wars that Canada has fought in since 1899:

  • 244 in the Boer War (1899-1902).
  • 66,655 in the First World War (1914-1918).
  • 44,893 in the Second World War (1939-1945).
  • 516 in the Korean War (1950-1953).
  • 71 soldiers and a diplomat in Afghanistan (since the mission began in early 2002).

source
Canadian Dead in Five Wars

Those numbers made me marvel again at the amazing sacrifice made by Canada during WWI and WWII, and the high level of support for the war effort among the Canadian people. The rosolve was there because most Canadians believed that the cause was just.

It also made me wonder about the readiness of so many Canadians, including federal party leaders Dion and Layton, to abandon the people of Afghanistan, the majority of whom seem to appreciate the Canadian Forces’ efforts to bring stability and peace to their country.