Archive for April, 2009

In cahoots

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

The newly characterized antibiotic, which Clardy and Currie call dentigerumycin, is a depsipeptide containing unusual amino acids, such as piperazic acid and N-hydroxyalanine, as well as a polyketide-derived side chain containing a pyran ring.

If that sentence is Greek to you, join the club.

However I’m glad that there are people who understand the science of the symbiotic relationship between ants, fungi and bacteria, and are working to use it for the benefit of humans.  In my opinion, the potential for new drugs, and enzymes to potentially turn wood waste into liquid fuels, is worth investing in.  I for one do not begrudge my tax dollars helping to fund this kind of research.

And still holding …

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Tuesday April 14, at noon.

North Saskatchewan River, 2009-04-14, ice is holding

The ice is holding, but it’s turning black, and there are open patches along the shore.  I’m still holding out for an April 15 ice break-up.

River ice holding as of noon today

Monday, April 13th, 2009

As of noon today the ice hadn’t broken.

North Saskatchewan River at Prince Albert, 2009-04-13

I had intended to take pictures daily until the ice breaks, but it slipped my mind on Friday April 10.

However here’s a pic I took on Saturday April 11 while cycling the Rotary Trail.

North Saskatchewan River at Prince Albert, 2009-04-11.

And here’s one that Jennifer took during the Easter Sunrise Service, Sunday April 12.

North Saskatchewan River at Prince Albert, 2009-04-12, Easter Sunrise Service

The last couple of days have been warm, and now we have a light rain, but I’m sticking with my prediction that the ice will break on Wednesday the 15th.

On the Auntie-I-Over injured list

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Auntie-I-Over* can be a physically punishing game.  Most of the injuries that I’ve seen in my long Auntie-I-Over career were purple bruises from being beaned with a sponge ball.  Perhaps the most memorable was the time my big brother Marv was literally knocked to the ground by a hornet sting to the forehead while rounding the back of our old house at Shell Lake.  None of us had noticed the big nest under the eaves.  Of course being Marv he didn’t cry, but we could all tell that he was in pain.  (I was secretly glad because of the purple welt he had recently given me).

My most recent Auntie-I-Over injury happened yesterday, when my middle-aged body rounded the corner of the garage under a full head of steam, chased by a nimble kid with a ball in her hand, and my feet contacted a patch of wet muddy grass and my backside was suddenly lower than my feet.  I probably should have just let my soft bottom take the impact, but I tried to break my fall with my right hand, almost dislocating my shoulder as a result.

Luckily I have Ibuprofen.

I won’t be playing Auntie-I-Over again till this athletic injury heals.


For the uninitiated, Auntie-I-Over is a game dating back to before the invention of the T.V.  It is played with two teams who stand on opposite sides of a low building and toss a ball over the roof.  A throw is signalled by calling “Auntie-I-Over”.  A failed throw (roll-back) is signalled by calling “Pig’s Tail”.  If the ball is caught before hitting the ground, the members of the receiving team run around the building and try to tag members of the other team with the ball.  If everyone keeps their hands behind their backs, the victims need to make a snap decision on which way to run – who has the ball?  Throwing the ball is permitted, but head shots aren’t.  Tagged members switch teams, and play continues until a team has been completely decimated.

A quick Google search reveals that the game has other names, including Annie-I-Over, Annie-Annie, and Auntie-Auntie, and that some variants signal unsuccessful throws with “Auntie Come Back” or other phrases that probably make more sense than “Pig’s Tail”.

Must have been quite a party

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

I noticed that one of the speakers in our sound system was sounding terrible, so I pulled off the speaker grille, and here is what I found.

Blown woofer

I don’t know how loud the system must have been cranked to blow a woofer like that.  I’m not aware of any loud parties at our place when the kids were home alone – no complaints from the neighbours, no police reports, etc.

Oh well, I got more than 30 years out of those speakers, and they were never spectacular performers anyway.

I’ve replaced them with a set of bookshelf speakers – a lot smaller but with better sound.  I don’t know what I’ll do with these old-school monsters.

Speaker with blown woofer

Waiting for the ice to break

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

As I stated a little over a year ago, I mark the arrival of Spring by the break-up of the ice on the North Saskatchewan River at my city of Prince Albert.

On my lunch break today I snapped this picture.


As of noon today, the ice was still holding.  I’m posting this in the late evening, and for all I know the river ice may have broken this afternoon.

According to a couple of guys I know who keep track of these things, in the last 20 or so years the ice has gone out as early as March 30 and as late as April 26, with the average being around April 12.  It’s been a cold spring, but the forecast is for warm weather this Easter weekend.

I”m going to go out on a limb and make a guess that the ice will break on April 15.

No bets will be taken.

Brother Ansgar’s technical support call

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

An intellectually honest atheist

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Singer writes, “My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others.” Singer argues that even pigs, chickens, and fish have more signs of consciousness and rationality—and, consequently, a greater claim to rights—than do fetuses, newborn infants, and people with mental disabilities. “Rats are indisputably more aware of their surroundings, and more able to respond in purposeful and complex ways to things they like or dislike, than a fetus at 10- or even 32-weeks gestation. … The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy.”

Some people consider Singer a provocateur who says outrageous things just to get attention. But Singer is deadly serious about his views and—as emerged in our debate—has a consistent rational basis for his controversial positions.

To understand Singer, it’s helpful to contrast him with “New Atheists” like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. The New Atheists say we can get rid of God but preserve morality. They insist that no one needs God in order to be good; atheists can act no less virtuously than Christians. (And indeed, some atheists do put Christians to shame.) Even while repudiating the Christian God, Dawkins has publicly called himself a “cultural Christian.”

Dinesh D’Souza in Christianity Today, on the intellectual honesty of bioethicist Peter Singer.

More toilet talk – MaP

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

In my continuing research on low-flush and dual-flush toilets (following up on my previous post), I came across a fascinating report.  It describes the standardized methodology for testing how well various toilets do at flushing away the solid stuff.

Apparently people in a lab somewhere use 50 gram preparations of soybean paste in latex casings.

Cased media - soybean paste for MaP

The pass/fail level is 250 grams, i.e. five chunks of soybean paste.

The original minimum performance benchmark adopted by MaP was 250 grams (250g) of waste. That is,
a toilet fixture should completely evacuate at least 250g of waste in a single flush action. This value is
based on the results of a British medical study (Variability of Colonic Function in Healthy Subjects) that
identified 250g as the average maximum fecal size of the male participants in the study. Thus, any toilet
that meets or exceeds the 250g performance threshold should meet customer expectations for flushing.

Now I know that the people who produced this report are performing a good public service, since not all toilets are created equal and the consumer should know what to expect before testing the new throne out.  However the image of white-jacketed lab workers flushing re-usable tubes of soybean paste down the toilet while taking notes on a clipboard just strikes me as funny.

But it sure beats some of the possible testing options.

Anyway, yesterday I installed our new dual-flush toilet.  It’s a Rona Collection EL, made by Foremost (MaP Test Report No. 8-530).  It’s rated as capable of evacuating 700 grams of solid waste (i.e. 14 chunks of soybean paste) on a 6 litre flush,  so I think it should meet my solid waste removal needs.


Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.

- Psalm 104: 14-15

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”
- Matthew 11:18-19a

“Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused.  Men can go wrong with wine and women.  Shall we then prohibit and abolish women? The sun, the moon, and the stars have been worshiped.  Shall we then pluck them out of the sky?”
- Martin Luther

A recent discussion on a friend’s blog on the topic of alcohol consumption by Christians – moderation vs. abstention – set me checking some sources, and I came across a 7-part blog series called, “God Gave C2H6O”.  I think it makes a strong biblical case for moderate drinking.  If interested, start by clicking here for Part 1 and follow the links to subsequent parts.