Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Our own eccentrics

In the interest of full disclosure to our friends in the homeland south of us, we have also had our share of weird and wonderful leaders. Our first Prime Minister, John A. McDonald, (the equivalent I suppose of your Washington) was a binge drinker. No holier than thou, I cannot tell a lie type of guy, but a larger than life personage who could drink like a fish and still function. He was once quoted as having said to D'Arcy McGee (another heavy drinker, today there is a great Irish pub named after him in Ottawa) that there was only room for one drunk in the cabinet so he (D'Arcy) must reform...

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

Congratulations Dubya

I was reading in the Gazette that Dubya has finally won something other than a dubious election. His quote, "I know that the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." has made it to this year's 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said calendar. The man must definitely have neurological problems, either that or he's the idiot brother of the family. It is a truly frightening thought that the person who uttered such inanities, is the man who has his finger on the nuclear button...
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
of opportunity.
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!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher!
I am the Decider!

** Thanks to Bill Brownstein of the Gazette for the idea.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Death of a Hero

In the year 2000 I finally fulfilled a long standing dream, that of going to Nepal and trekking to Everest. I had had this dream for a long time and it was worth the wait. As Jazz and I were trekking in the Khumbu, we could always see the great dark grey pyramid of Everest looming at the horizon. It is not the most beautiful mountain, for me Ama Dablam is, but it is imposing even partially hidden behind Lotse and Nupse. (In the photo Everest is the pyramid on the left behind Nupse.)
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

Human Stupidity

One of my friends sent me this picture... If this is a real picture then these guys a just itching for a Darwin Award... Never underestimate human stupidity.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Since I am in over my head in corrections to be done in time for report cards, I really don't have time to post much. Instead here is one of my pictures called "Icicle in Blue". The picture is not touched up and the back ground colour is the sky, with a polarizing filter. A rather cool effect if I say so myself. The icicle itself was hanging from the roof this morning when I got up and was melting and changing as I was taking the picture.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Homo Faber

Homo Faber or in English Ingenious Man. The meaning of this come from the International Education Program (I teach in an International school) and pertains to all aspects of man's creativity. Today while surfing the Net I came across a perfect example of this.
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. and Discovery Channel's Daily Planet

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Pretty in Pink

It seems that in a county of Texas they are using the colour pink to keep inmates at the Mason County Jail from becoming repeat offenders. The inmates wear pink jumpsuits and slippers, the walls of their cells are pink, and their bedsheets and underwear are inadvertently pink because of the wash. The thought of 250 pound inmates running around in pink is hilarious and I can see how it would be a deterrent for coming back to prison. All they need now are frills and froufrous to complete the picture. The measure, instigated by Sheriff Clint Low, seems to be working very well. Maybe we should try it here in Canada.

Odds and sods

I've spent the Christmas holidays doing not much of anything, except doing a lot of reading and watching some good old fashioned murder mysteries with Mrs. BB. Since we have had a vast amount of snow since the beginning of December, I did get in a lot of cross country skiing at Cap St-Jacques near my place and did 25 km on Friday in Gatineau Park. The conditions were superb, cold enough to be comfortable and have good snow conditions but warm enough to not freeze when you stopped. Having not much to do and plenty of time to do it in, I took some of the pictures I took and turned them into a 360 degree panorama as a QuickTime VR. Here is what the trail and Lac Pink looked like (You'll need the QuickTime plugin. They are 360 degree panoramas. All you have to do is click on them, holding down your mouse button and move the mouse in the direction you want to go.) The The scenery was beautiful even if the cloud cover made it very grey.