Archive for January, 2009


Saturday, January 31st, 2009

A career-rating group in the U.S. has crunched their numbers and come up with a list of the top 200 jobs.

Number 200 on the list – dead last – is logger/lumberjack.

The top 10 are mostly Dilbertesque jobs, like mathematician (1), actuary (2), and statistician (3).

I really doubt that the average artist (80), actor (170), choreographer (161) or even member of the clergy (70) would trade their job for that of a mathematician.

Something tells me that the study was designed by left-brain people.


Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Liberal-NDP coalition (supported by Bloc Quebecois)
Dec. 1, 2008 to Jan. 28th, 2009.

It was with mixed emotions that the death of the Liberal-NDP/Bloc coalition was announced this morning in Ottawa.

NDP Leader Jack Layton, one of the founding members, seemed saddened by the dissolution of the agreement and declared that a new coalition has been born between Liberal Michael Ignatieff and Conservative Stephen Harper.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, also a signatory, was less sentimental, declaring the proposal simply “defunct.”

The Liberal party too acknowledged the death of the coalition, although some participants blamed the Liberals for their part in its ultimate demise.

The coalition lived for a total of 59 days.

In its short life it brought much political fireworks to Ottawa and thrived on its moments in the spotlight. As recently as this weekend, there were some who believed it might yet survive.

Condolences can be sent to directly to the MPs who supported it.


Apologies to those who are in mourning for that goofy Liberal-NDP-Bloc (supported by the Bloc) coalition, but I for one am glad to see its grotesque existence come to an end.

Now that their attempted power-grab has failed, can they please get on with the business of providing reasonable opposition to the government?

Two months should be enough time to comment

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I have a pretty good spam filter (Akismet) for this blog, but now and then a spam message still gets through trying to sell Viagra or vacations to Bahamas or whatever.  Strangely enough a lot of them are commenting on a blog post that never generated any valid comments.

So eventually it occurred to my thick skull that I have the ability to turn comments off.  Rather than pick and choose, I have changed my settings to automatically disallow comments after 60 days.

Apologies to all who really really want to talk about something I posted last year.


Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Useless trivia of the day … If one’s right hand is positioned slightly to the left on a standard QWERTY keyboard, attempting to spell Phil results in Oguk.

Wolf Willow

Monday, January 26th, 2009

I’ve never been to Eastend, Saskatchewan.  In my mind it’s mostly been associated with Scotty the T-Rex.

However I have been to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, straddling the Saskatchewan/Alberta border a bit to the west of Eastend.  It is a fascinating area, with its lodgepole pine forests stuck in the middle of the prairies.

My perception of Eastend, Cypress Hills and southern Saskatchewan in general has been changed by the book Wolf Willow, by the American author Wallace Stegner.  It’s been on my to-read list for some time, and I finally got around to reading it during my days off around Christmas.

Wolf Willow works for me on a lot of levels.  It is a strange blend of non-fiction and short stories.  Stegner reminisces about his childhood in the village of Whitemud (Eastend) and a homestead on the Saskatchewan-Montana border, makes the history of the area breathe, and describes the natural environment in a way that makes it come alive – the shrub wolf willow (Eleagnus commutata, also known as silverberry) does indeed have a distinctive aroma.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in ecology, history, frontier attitudes, homesteading, law enforcement (North-West Mounted Police), Blackfoot/Sioux/Cree and other native peoples, Métis, Canadian vs. American attitudes, or just a good read.

Green stimulus

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

The new federal budget will be presented in just a few days.

That’s the Canadian federal budget, in case you’ve been totally immersed in Obama news.

There’s a lot of pressure on the Conservatives for big spending projects to stimulate the flagging economy.  As much as I hate to see Canada getting into deficit spending again, building up the debt for our children to pay off, I do understand that in times of recession a case can be made for the government running deficits while spending more to stimulate the economy.  I just hope that the feds will choose their spending priorities wisely.

If spending is to increase, I agree with the four former Prime-Ministers who have issued a call for a Green Stimulus package as part of the budget.  I don’t know if all of the elements are sound, but I like the idea of increased spending on alternative energy sources, including biomass from the forest.

I also would like to see a more generous grant for home energy retrofits.  The current ecoENERGY Retrofit program provides some incentive but it could certainly be improved.

And maybe the feds could match or increase the new $50 Low/Dual-Flush Toilet rebate water conservation program announced by the Saskatchewan provincial government last week.  I’d follow my cousin Roger’s lead and save on my water bill by peeing behind the shed but the neighbours would probably complain.

Toilet talk

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

If it’s yellow

Let it mellow

If it’s brown

Flush it down

I must admit that I don’t make a practise of following that old water conservation slogan.  If I tried it, someone in my house would have a talk with me.

However I do feel somewhat guilty about using 13 litres of municipally-treated water each time I tinkle (which happens more frequently since I turned 50 than it used to).  Water conservation is an important part of natural resource stewardship.  Not to speak of saving money.

So when I found out that the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority is willing to pay me $50 per toilet to replace my old porcelain thrones with new low-flush (6-litre) or dual-flush (6-litre and 3-litre) models, I decided to look into what dual-flush models are available.  Since I was in Saskatoon on Saturday anyway, it was a good excuse to browse through Home Depot.

Unfortunately I was still thinking in mid 1990s prices, from the last time we replaced a toilet.  I’m sure we paid less than $100 for a basic model at that time. On Saturday the only dual-flush toilet that Home Depot had in stock was selling for just under $300 before taxes.  The $50 rebate would help, but I’m still having trouble with the cost of replacing the three toilets in our house.

Apparently there are technical factors to consider when buying a low-flush toilet – such as whether the trap is glazed, or only the bowl itself is glazed.  It makes sense that the brown stuff would clog less in a nice slippery glazed trap than in a rough-surfaced trap, but I admit I had never pondered that fact.  The news story at the link above says a good model would cost in the $400-$600 range.

I guess the $300 toilet at Home Depot must have an unglazed trap.

However it seems to me that it would take a lot of low-flushes to justify the extra cost of a more poop-friendly model.

Lots to think about.  The research will continue.  Meanwhile any practical toilet advice would be appreciated.

(Please excuse my potty-mouth language in this post – I’ll try to get my mind out of the sewer before my next post)

Luke and Charlotte cover Animal Collective

Monday, January 19th, 2009

I can’t say that I’m a fan of Animal Collective, and don’t ask me what their song “Peacebone” is about, but I kind of like the folkie interpretation my talented kids give it in this clip.

There is hope

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009


(source: Environment Canada)

Northwest Passage – a robust Canadian response

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Yesterday the White House issued its new policy on the Arctic, a test of Canadian sovereignty in our northern regions.

In his final days in power, President George W. Bush asserted U. S. military “sea power” over the oil-rich Arctic on Monday, in another forceful rebuttal of Canada’s claims of sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.

The White House formally released the text of a sweeping new directive on the Arctic, two years in the making, just eight days before Barack Obama is to be sworn in as the 44th U. S. president and on the same day as Bush held his final White House news conference as president.

Key elements of Bush’s policy challenge the ambitious Arctic sovereignty agenda put forth by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that includes bolstering Canada’s military presence and fostering economic and social development. The Bush directive reiterates the Northwest Passage is an international waterway–a rebuttal of Canada’s claim of sovereignty over what is emerging as a major global shipping route because of the shrinking polar ice cap –and it highlights the boundary dispute in the resource-rich Beaufort Sea.


In a related article, Premier Floyd Roland of the Northwest Territories is calling for a robust Canadian response. (source)

I concur.

As a very important part of a robust Canadian response I urge you to get over to the CBC Radio 2 website and vote for “Northwest Passage” by Stan Rogers, as one of the 49 songs to be presented to President-Elect Barack Obama.  The song has made the shortlist of 100 nominees, but it belongs in the top 49.  In fact it should become our new national anthem.

To vote, click here.  Voting ends Friday, January 16 at 11 p.m. ET so don’t delay.

UPDATE 2009-01-20:  According to the CBC Radio 2 blog, the top 5 vote-getters in the “English Pop Folk etc.” category were:

Closer to the Heart – Rush
Canadian Railroad Trilogy – Gordon Lightfoot
Hallelujah – k.d. lang
Democracy – Leonard Cohen
Northwest Passage – Stan Rogers

(now does anyone actually expect President Obama to spend time listening to these 49 songs?)