Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Then we had William Lyon McKenzie-King. This was the prime minister who would go for a walk on his estate and discuss the nation's business with his dog and his mother. Now I know that this doesn't seem all that strange, but you have to realize that they had both been dead for many years. His hobby was building ruins. Some men build houses, mansions even castles. He deliberately built ruins. No not let a building fall into ruins, he built new ruins. He would scour Ottawa for buildings being torn down so that he could use bits and pieces in his ruins.
We also had our philosopher prince, Pierre Eliot Trudeau. Canadians either loved him or hated him. He was charismatic, flamboyant and down right arrogant. He would wear sandals to parliament and once did a pirouette behind Queen Elizabeth's back at an official function. He once told the opposition to, as the journalists put it, "fuddle duddle" I'll let you guess what he really said. He is probably the only thing that Québec Separatists and Western Conservatives can agree on... they both hate the man. Like him or hate him, he certainly left nobody indifferent.
In the last couple of years we have had Jean Chrétien. He was perfectly bilingual. Not strange you say? It has been said that Jean Chrétien was the only Prime Minister to speak both of Canada's official languages poorly at the same time. He also once tackled a demonstrator who got too close and scared the hell out of his body guards. But to give the devil his due, he did tell Dubya to go somewhere when he refused to be drawn into the debacle that is Irak and the wily old fox served 3 terms as Prime Minster (1993-2003) and had one of the highest popularity ratings in recent history despite the scandals.
It is somewhat ironic that Canadians, who have a reputation as being rather staid and middle of the road, elected and then re-elected these men to the highest office in Canada. McDonald served for 19 years as Prime Minister, McKenzie King for 22 years, Trudeau for 15 years, and Chrétien for 10 years. Hmm I wonder what that really says about us?
Monday, January 28, 2008
The quote can also be found in the poem "Make the Pie Higher" which is made up of Bush's bloopers and remarkably stupid utterances. The poem was collated from Bush's sayings by Washington Post writer Richard Thompson. For those of you who might be curious here is the poem in its entirety.
Make the Pie Higher
I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of manmen and uncertainty
And potential mental losses.
Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet
Become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?
They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg
I know that the human being
And the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope,
Where our wings take dream.
Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Make the pie higher!
I am the Decider!
** Thanks to Bill Brownstein of the Gazette for the idea.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Last Friday Sir Edmund Hillary, the man who first climbed to the summit, died at age 88 in New Zealand. This tall rangy hero was a modest man and for the longest time after having won renown, still listed himself as a "beekeeper" the job he had done before climbing into fame. He was also a true gentleman and friend and always said that Tenzing and himself had arrived together at the summit when in fact he had gotten there a few minutes before his friend. That shows a real sense of chivalry, because even today, the role of the sherpa is often down played.
On May 29th, 1953, Edmund Hillary and his sherpa, Tenzing Norgay made history by being the first to climb to the top of the 29035 feet or 8850 meter Mount Everest or Sagamatha for the Nepalese. That is about the height that modern jets fly. At that altitude you are in the killing zone, where your body is slowly dying from lack of oxygen. (Believe me it is deadly, Everest has killed over 200 people since Hillary climbed it for the first time and that doesn't count those that disappeared like George Mallory before Hillary's time)
Many people would have been content with this, but Edmund Hillary went on to explore other mountains, cross Antarctica, touching the South Pole in the process, landed at the North Pole in a ski plane becoming the first man to touch both poles and the summit of Everest.
More importantly, he never forgot the sherpas and the Khumbu. He raised millions of dollars to build 30 schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and many other things that the region needed. In fact the Nepalese made him an honorary citizen of their country, the only foreigner to have been so honoured.
He was also an environmentalist, spearheading the clean up of Everest. When he pushed for the cleanup by climbers, there were tons of garbage such as used oxygen bottles, tents, packs, ropes and just plain garbage that had been left on the mountain. There were even many bodies and everything would be perfectly preserved for all time by the freezing temperature and lack of oxygen. (In fact George Mallory disappeared on the mountain in 1924 and when they finally found his body in 1999, they where able to see what had happened to him.) Because of his leadership the Nepalese government has put a garbage tax on the expeditions, they have to post a bond for a large sum of money (thousands of US $) and their equipment, food and stuff is then weighed and they must bring it back. They then pay so much for every kilogram they left. So everyone is forced to follow the trekker's credo, "What goes up, comes down!"
They don't make men like him anymore. Being an atheist, I don't really believe in an afterlife, but I'd like to think that if it exists, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay are now together on the summit of the Sagamatha, the mother of all mountains.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
A French engineer and his son have invented a car that runs on air, no, I kid you not, the car runs on pure air, compressed air. The MDI car is made of light weight composite materials and has under body reservoirs made of light weight carbon fibre containing 200 litres of air each at 4000 psi. This gives the car an autonomy of 150 kilometres with zero pollution. To recharge the air system you can simply plug it in and a mini compressor fills up the tanks in 4 hours or you can "gas up" at a high pressure "air station" in about 3 minutes. Total cost between $2.50 and $5.00.
Man's ingeniousness never ceases to amaze me.
If you are curious here are a couple of links that give information about the technology.
http://www.theaircar.com/ and Discovery Channel's Daily Planet