Archive for March, 2009

Which end of the chainsaw not to hold – and other stupid warning labels

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

For more stupid warning labels click here.

Human Achievement Hour – conservatives against conservation

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Conservation was drilled into me from birth by my conservative parents.  Being good stewards was really important to them, both having spent their formative years on struggling farms during the “Dirty Thirties”.

So as a small-c conservative I whole-heartedly support Earth Hour, and tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. my family will turn off the lights and enjoy another dimly-lit evening of board games, as we did last year.

Earth Day 2008 - Dad and Fiona play a card game (unfortunately lit up by the flash)

Earth Day 2008 - daughter and dad play a card game (unfortunately lit up by the flash in this picture)

And no, I won’t be participating in Human Achievement Hour by idling my vehicle for an hour – unlike an alarming number of right-of-centre folks.  (Just when did it become fashionable for conservatives to oppose conservation?)

The Pope says AB and his critics say C but I think ABC

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

“I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanisation of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness – even through personal sacrifice – to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.

“Therefore, I would say that our double effort is to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and the other person’s body; and this capacity of suffering with those who suffer, to remain present in trying situations.

“I believe that this is the first response [to AIDS] and that this is what the Church does, and thus, she offers a great and important contribution. And we are grateful to those that do this.”

So spoke Pope Benedict several days ago.

And boy did it set off a media firestorm.

In the news and opinion articles that I’ve read, I haven’t seen much mention of the so-called ABC strategy.  That is the strategy that Uganda used to dramatically reduce that nation’s HIV/AIDS infection rate, where A stands for Abstinence, B stands for Be faithful to a single committed partner, and C stands for Condom use if you can’t commit to the first two points.

To me this just seems like a no-brainer.  Abstinence is indeed the surest way to prevent infection (recognizing the slight chance of infection from intravenous sources etc.).  Faithfulness is also excellent, if indeed both partners remain true to their vows (recognizing that many faithful spouses have been infected by unfaithful partners).  Condoms have a fairly high success ratio … I’ve heard as high as 99% protection and as low as 80% (would you encourage your child to play Russian Roulette on condition that he/she only places a single cartidge in the cylinder?), so it makes sense to use them if engaging in risky behaviour.

The Pope’s opposition to condom distribution is consistent with Roman Catholic teachings forbidding contraceptives.

While I think the media has distorted his message, I do think he is wrong on this issue.  Whether a sex trade worker or the faithful spouse of an unfaithful partner, a lot of people are dying who might have lived if a condom had been used.

However I also think that his critics who discount abstinence and faithfulness are equally wrong.  I don’t see the same media indignation over the way that abstinence and faithfulness are dismissed as unrealistic.

For what I consider a fair analysis of HIV/AIDS prevention, check out the April 2008 article by Green and Ruark in First Things – “AIDS and the Churchs: Getting the Story Right“.


Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Once again it’s been a long time between blog posts.  And again it’s mostly due to lack of motivation.  However I can also blame my preoccupation with my computer problems.  Actually since my kids use it more than I do, I shouldn’t even call it “my computer”.

The hard drive has been at near capacity for awhile.  I deleted files, I compressed files, I nagged the kids to get rid of un-needed files, but it didn’t take long till it was full again.

I considered buying an external hard drive, but decided to instead replace the internal drive, thinking I’d replace the existing drive rather than add a second drive.  I found a sale on a 500 GB drive.  That’s when the fun began.  A virus scan found some Trojan Horses in some files one of my bad kids had copied to the HDD.  Then I had problems with the backup.  Then after physically installing the drive I discovered that I couldn’t boot from my CD-ROM or from my DVD drive.  Then I tried making a bootable diskette but it had been so long since I’d used the diskette drive that it was packed with dust – it looked like felt.  After cleaning it out I still couldn’t make it work.  I eventually just installed the HDD as a second drive.

At one time I considered myself fairly computer savvy but no longer.

Anyway I still need to do some moving of user profiles etc. but that can wait.  So I’m sneaking in a blog post before driving to Saskatoon to pick up Jennifer at the airport.  She’s returning from an educational trip to Québec with her class.  We should be back in P.A. around 2:00 a.m.  Fun times.

Harnessing the sun’s energy

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

We have a solar clothes dryer in our back yard, but it’s dwarfed by this Chinese model.

Solar clothes dryer in China

Bitumen presentations

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

A few days ago I mentioned The Great Tar Sands Debate.  Tonight I went to it, and I found it very interesting, but I would hesitate to call it a debate.

I thought that both speakers did a fine job of their presentations.

Andrew Nikiforuk spoke against the “tar sands” from the perspective of a concerned Alberta environmentalist.  He raised what I believe to be some very valid concerns about the environmental costs of both the open-pit mining of bitumen and “in-situ” extraction such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD).

Carolyn Preston spoke about the exploration efforts of Saskatchewan’s “oil sands”, explaining that the bitumen is too deep to extract using open-pit mining.  She also explained that SAGD won’t be an option because of the nature of the overburden – I hadn’t been aware of that.  She then discussed other extraction methods that are being tested, involving solvents and electricity.

Little real debate was generated, because of the Alberta/Saskatchewan experience/future possibility perspectives.

Audience questions covered the duty to consult with the local aboriginal population, health concerns, and the effect of using natural gas for bitumen extraction on the price of natural gas for home heating.  I thought both speakers did an adequate job of answering questions.

Oil is a non-renewable resource, and our North American lifestyles are dependent upon it.  It’s easy to point a finger at the evil polluting industry, but I agreed with Carolyn Preston that it’s we the consumers who demand the product.  Reducing our consumption is important.  The sooner we can find affordable, clean, renewable energy options the better.  Forest biomass, whether for cellulosic ethanol or direct combustion, has potential to be part of the solution.  Saskatchewan has a lot of open space so wind power should be an option. It’s likely to make me some enemies, but I’m even willing to look at the nuclear option.

A house concert

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Smiles and laughter and pleasant times
There’s love in the world but it’s hard to find

(Bruce Cockburn – Festival of Friends)

This is a couple of days after the fact, but I just thought I’d mention that the concert that Janet and I went to on Saturday evening has hooked me on the concept of “house concerts”.   In terms of concert intimacy, they are the ultimate.

I won’t go into details about the house concert by Dale Nikkel and Kimbal Siebert because  Marc, Sharon, and Linea (the birthday girl) have already blogged about it.  Check out the links for their impressions.

Dale Nikkel and Kimbal Siebert - house concert in Prince Albert, 2009-03-14

(photo credit: Marc V.)

Seals and senators

Friday, March 13th, 2009

This news article on the CBC website is encouraging.

An effort by a Liberal senator to effectively ban the East Coast seal hunt was dealt a fatal blow Tuesday when not a single colleague could be found to second his motion.

Senator Mac Harb, a former MP from Ottawa named to the upper chamber in 2003, tried to put forward a bill to cancel the traditional hunt for everyone except aboriginal hunters with treaty rights.

But his effort was met with silence.

Some of Harb’s colleagues who have spent over two decades in the Senate said they couldn’t recall the last time a bill failed to find a seconder.

Gerry Byrne, a Liberal MP from Newfoundland, said the lack of support for cancelling the seal hunt should send a clear message to the European Union, which appears likely to support a ban on importing most seal products.

Byrne said even if parliamentarians disagree with a bill, they’ll often rise to second it out of respect for a colleague. But he said opposition to banning the hunt is so complete that nobody even wanted to discuss Harb’s bill.

(full story here).

Kudos to the senate for refusing to consider this bill.

What I found especially encouraging is the number of reader comments following the story in support of the seal hunt, and the number of “Agree” (thumbs up) votes for those comments.  Most Canadians live in urban environments, but apparently they aren’t as out of touch with natural resource management issues as I feared.

At least we aren’t in Edmonton

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

I thought it was cold here in Prince Albert on Wednesday night, with our record-setting cold of -37.2 C.  That’s January weather, but it’s the middle of March for Pete’s sake.

However according to this news article, Edmonton beat their previous cold record by a full 13 degrees, with the mercury dipping to -42.7 C.   I take solace in that fact.

Only a week till Saint Joseph’s Day

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

One of my favorite movies of 2005 was “Millions“, a delightful story of a boy who memorizes statistics on saints (did you know that Saint Clare of Assisi is the patron saint of television?) the way some boys memorize sports statistics.

Several saints make an appearance in the movie.  One of them was Saint Joseph.

As I’ve mentioned previously on these pages, my evangelical Protestant church background hasn’t had much place for saints.  I was aware of the Joseph of the New Testament mostly as the kid in the Christmas pageant who accompanied Mary to Bethlehem, asked the innkeeper if he had a room, settled for the barn, then stood around the stable while the real action happened.

I didn’t realize until recently that March 19 is Saint Joseph’s Day.  A recent article in Touchstone magazine helped me realize that Joseph isn’t just a kid in a bathrobe with a towel on his head, but as the step-dad of Jesus and the husband of Mary, is an excellent model of manliness for Christian men to emulate.  Read the article here.


(That same issue of Touchstone has a couple of other good articles on the subject of Joseph (Abba, Joseph! by Russell D. Moore; Father Joseph by Patrick Henry Reardon), but they aren’t online.