Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mother Nature’s Way of Cleaning House – Or Global Warming?

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake rocked Indonesia today, killing hundreds, causing massive power outages, and cutting communications networks. The quake was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey, near Padang, the capital city Justify Fullof Sumatra, with over 800,000 inhabitants.

Closer to home, forest fires caused by lightning strikes wipe out thousands of trees every year on the west coasts of Canada and the United States. People living in the areas often have to flee their homes, evacuating to emergency shelters, wondering if their homes will still be there when they return.

More powerful tornadoes run through the American Tornado Alley – an area which runs roughly from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains – destroying homes and property.

The power of Mother Nature’s wrath is urging ever stronger, as storm systems causing these weather related phenomenon get all the more powerful.

In many ways, it is the natural cycle of nature. With every flash flood, drought, hurricane, or forest fire brought on by a lightning strike, old growth is killed off, leaving room for new plants, trees, animals and other living things. It’s Mother Nature’s way of cleaning house – so-to-speak.

What is unusual is the increased power behind these already very powerful weather systems and this is because of global warming.

As the Earth’s temperatures increase, so to do the massive water bodies which compose most of the globe – our planet is 70% water.

Oceans, lakes, rivers and streams all warm, and this warm water is just the fuel needed to turn a simple summer storm into a killer storm.

Cloud formations blow across these warm waters, soaking up the warm moisture, which in turn creates storm clouds of immense power. The warmer the water absorbed into these clouds, the more viciously powerful the activity caused by that cloud becomes.

By the time these clouds hit land, they are bursting at the seams with a forceful fury – massive hurricane-gust winds, lightening, the ability to generate tornadoes, and other unruly things.

Earthquakes such as the one which occurred this morning in Indonesia, are also due to Global Warming.

An aerial section of snow-covered Rocky Mounta...Image via Wikipedia

The tectonic plates underneath all land masses on our planet are in a constant planetary ballet, scampering across the planet. These tectonic plates constantly collide with one another, and as is the case with the Indonesian earthquake, force massive amounts of the Earth’s crust up and out of the planet’s core in the form of volcanic eruptions.

A 40,000KM horseshoe-shaped area in the Pacific ocean, called The Ring of Fire, is where about 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur and about 80 percent of the world’s largest earthquakes take place there. Named because of the 452 volcanoes which line this region, global warming is having a grave impact on those who’s lives can change in an instant, when the Earth hiccups via a volcanic explosion.

As the Earth’s core temperature increases, pressure builds, which is eventually released during a volcanic eruption.

These eruptions can occur via volcanoes on land, or underwater. Either way, the escaping material is all that is needed to cause violent earthquakes, such as the one which was the cause of the earthquake in Indonesia today.

Volcanic eruptions in of themselves can cause much harm. From destroying entire towns and cities by covering them in thick layers of dust and ash, to molten lava flows which can wipe out entire civilizations, to the aftershocks, leading to tsunamis and other extremely dangerous phenomenon.

These things all did occur long before human beings walked on the planet – but since we’ve taken over the world’s ecosystem, they have become stronger, and more dangerous to us, and every other living thing on the planet.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Future Now

Yesterday as I was going through my snail-mail, I came across an interesting promotional letter from my telecom provider.

They were advising me that since I subscribed to their home phone service, and digital TV service, that I was receiving a new service completely free – TV Call Waiting.

This new service will display a person’s name and number on my TV screen, as well as on my phones. The feature even allows me to send the call directly to voice-mail simply by hitting a button on my remote control.

Pretty cool tool. It could be annoying, especially if you are glued to the couch watching your favorite shows, but there still is an element of “wow” to this new technological development.

Whether you love it or hate it, the real “wow” factor comes from a little forward-looking thinking. Back in the 1990’s, there was all this talk about the convergence of communications technologies.

The first big convergence brought on by technology was the Internet and the mass media. Television, radio and newspapers were the most popular forms people around the world got their information. As the Internet developed, it became possible to watch live streaming video online, listen to live streaming audio and even to read complete newspapers online – with hyperlinks for additional information. This became known as the media convergence, and many say it sparked a death sen

Texting on a keyboard phoneImage via Wikipedia

tence to for newspapers, because it is far easier and more efficient to watch a video online, than it is to read an entire series of stories in print.

Convergence was the buzz word given to discuss the morphing of television, radio, home theatre systems, phone systems, even your kitchen appliances with computers. Futurists dreamt allowed about a world where you could call home from work, turn on the oven to start your pot roast remotely while checking your messages. Then later that day, you’d arrive home with a nice hot pot roast just waiting for you.

We’ve seen the greatest form of convergence in the mobile telecommunications market. The first cell phones were huge clunkers that often didn’t even have a signal, because cell phone technology was so new and expensive. These days, cell phones are teeny-tiny, and do more than act as phones. Most have cameras in them, some allow you to play music, others allow you to surf the net, send video messages, open Word and other MS-Office documents, you even can use a built-in GPS to tell you where you are, and how to get to where you want to be.

Smart home technology has improved over the years, but it is far from the wild dreams of the futurists back in the 1990’s. But with small technological first-steps, like my telco’s TV Call Display, we’re slowly but steadily moving closer to that automated world.

I’ve had digital cable for years, and as long as I’ve been a subscriber, you can order movies onDemand or Pay-Per-View with a click of a button. Simple point and click, and the movie begins, while the charges appear on my next cable bill.

This two-way form of communications over a cable TV connection was never possible under the older analogue system, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

One day, you will be able to order products the same way you can order movies – just by pressing a button on your remote control. Imagine watching some infomercial late at night, and seeing a fantastic product that you want right then and there. All you have to do is point your remote at the cable box, click the button to order it, confirm your order by entering your PIN code, and wait for your new fangled thing to arrive in the mail.

Other cool “wow” factor technologies which we may see from these developments include – of all things – home security.

Many people have wireless home security cameras in and around their homes, and can view these cameras from anywhere in the world over the Internet. There was one incident just this past summer, where a lady called police from work, to report a break in at her home, which she was watching live over the Intern


Many automated security systems will alert the police when something isn’t just right. Imagine having all the doors lock on the inside and outside – trapping the intruder until the local law enforcement agents have arrived.

But where convergence has the most impact isn’t on technology, it is on us. Convergence is affecting our socio-economic world in ways unthinkable back in the 1990’s.
Online social networking sites like Facebook an d Twitter make it possible to reconnect with long lost friends and family, or to just meet completely new people in a non-threatening way.

“Texting” has become a socially acceptable form of communications, and “sexting” (sending sexually explicit text messages) has become a big problem for parents with pre-teen and teenage kids.

You no longer have to ever go to the office, just work virtually from home, checking email and logging into the network remotely to do your work.
Smart technologies are already making their way into our lives, just not as quickly as those singing the convergence song back in the 1990’s told us they would.

Technology is constantly changing and converging with. It will be interesting in five and ten-years, looking back, to see how far forward we have come.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

When Politicos Run and Hide

One of the benefits – supposedly – of living in a democracy is the freedom to discuss and debate the issues.

That’s part of the reason we have a Parliament, and why it is so un-Canadian for Canada’s top politician to scamper away from the debates.

Today, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave what has been billed as an “economic update,” talking about Canada’s economy in general, and taxes and infrastructure more specifically.

It isn’t all that uncommon for a Canadian prime minister to prov

The frozen turkey that stood in for Stephen Ha...Image by Grant Neufeld via Flickr

ide such an update – it gives citizens an idea as where the country is heading, and the opposing politicians a chance to discuss and debate these issues in the House of Commons up on Parliament Hill.

And that’s where the real power in our democratically elected leaders stems – in the House of Commons. Although to many outside the debate – and even some within it – it all appears to be a lot of political babbling, name calling, and other non-productive forms of communications.

The House of Commons provide a forum where the issues can be openly discussed and debated. It is through this discussion process, that our laws, rules, regulations and other policies which make us all the more Canadian are improved before becoming official.

The Chamber of the House of Commons is decorat...Image via Wikipedia

However, the children currently occupying the House of Commons – including all opposition leaders and our very own Prime Minister – have lost that notion, and instead focus on name calling and political back-stabbing.

That’s why although most economic report cards are issued by the Prime Minister or the Finance Minister in the House of Commons, today’s announcement was made on the other side of the country near St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s as far from the opposition parties – and the debates – as possible.

Our fearless leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, ran away l

I Don't Care Fore Stephen HarperImage by bgilliard via Flickr

ike a dog with his tail between his legs, and hid in another province, rather than face his opponents and allow for the open discussions which usually leads to better public policy.

Though the opposition parties also have a stake in some of the blame as well. It is because of their childish antics, threats to dissolve the house and call an election, and poor choice of strategies overall which have led our Prime Minister out of the house, to make important announcements about the country.

The real victims in all of this are not the politicians but the very citizens of Canada. Without these debates, public policies in the country will be passed when they should have been reviewed and revised. This means the rules and regulations which govern much of what we do could be flawed, or worse – fail to accomplish the very essence of what they were intended to do in the first place.

Although most Canadians don’t want another election so soon after the last one, maybe it is time to get rid of the children playing in the House of Commons, and replace them with adults who understand the whole reason they are there.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Toronto Mayor Withdraws from Office

Today, Canada’s largest city was rocked by a political announcement which took many by surprise. Two-term Toronto Mayor David Miller announced he won’t be running for re-election, in the city’s next municipal elections in 2010.

An emotional Mayor Miller told a gaggle of reporters during a press conference that he had decided to spend more time with his friends and family, and that he felt it was time to move on.

A tearful Mayor Miller said he was proud of his record, but wanted to spend more time with his kids. He emotionally glowed as he talked with pride of his two children, saying they were born after his first election as councilor in 1994, and if he were to win another term as mayor, his daughter would be in university before he left office.

Toronto Mayor David MillerImage by motionblur via Flickr

First elected mayor of Canada’s largest city in 2003, his second-term began after the 2006 election, and by far was harder than his first session in Toronto’s top political seat.

In his second term in office, Mayor Miller had to contend with an illegal walk-out by the city’s public transit system, the threat to close most of the city’s public pools to cut costs, and most recently, a city-wide strike by all inside and outside city workers, which stopped the collection of garbage – among the more stinky side effects – for 39-days.

No Toronto mayor has ever been re-elected after a garbage strike – former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman also didn’t run for re-election back in 2003, after the city had faced a similar city-wide garbage strike.

An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted just after this summer’s strike showed Mayor Miller’s popularity was at an all-time low of 29 percent, while 25 percent of those polled thought he was a great leader. The remaining 79 percent wanted a new person in the mayor’s chair.

Mayor Miller’s announcement appeared to take many of those who work closest with him by complete surprise. Many city councilors were shocked and saddened by the news, complimenting the mayor for his dedication to the city, his family and even to his colleagues – many of which never quite saw eye-to-eye with his views.

Battle lines were often quite noisily drawn at City Hall, as city council would occasionally divide in two factions – those who supported the mayor and his policies, and those who wanted him raked over the coals for those very same policies.

One such occasion which divided Toronto’s city councilors was the expansion of the Spadina Avenue streetcar. On one side you had the mayor and a group of councilors, bragging about how the expansion is creating jobs to build it, and will bring more people into the area, which will fuel local businesses as people go shopping at street-side stores, eat in the local restaurants, and take part in the other local businesses.

On the other side, many councilors were siding with those that live and work in the area, arguing that the expansion of the streetcar service is currently disrupting their lives, as people are not stopping to shop and eat

David Miller launching "ICT Toronto"...Image via Wikipedia

at local businesses, because of all the construction. And they claim, once the expansion has been built, they will have less sidewalk space and more car space, increasing vehicle traffic, instead of pedestrian traffic, which will see fewer – not more – people spending money in the area.

One rather bold city councilor told a local media news crew during debates about the Spadina streetcar expansion that the mayor should have his head examined, because he wasn’t thinking straight.

Regardless of whether or not you agreed with how Mayor Miller managed Canada’s largest city, he did just that – manage it. It isn’t easy managing any large company, and that’s exactly what it’s like to run one of the world’s largest and most metropolitan cities.

Mayor Miller had to balance Toronto’s budgets, mediate in various labour disputes, create solutions for environmental, social and economical problems. All while the entire city, the country and even on some occasions, the whole world watched.

Mayor Miller didn’t dramatically change anything or make a name for himself outside of Toronto. He didn’t bring in a new subway line like his predecessor Mayor Mel Lastman. He didn’t get international attention for banning one of Canada’s most famous singing groups because their name – The Bare Naked Ladies – sounded like something inappropriate and offensive, as former Toronto Mayor June Rowlands once did. He didn’t receive any awards for protecting the environment as former Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton did (he won a United Nations award for establishing the Toronto Atmospheric Fund). He didn’t get out there and try to make the city work at a grassroots community level, often being seen on public transit, and at community events as former Toronto Mayor John Sewell would do.

What Toronto Mayor David Miller did was his job. Was he a yo-yo mayor, or will he be remembered for his cleaning up of Toronto, his increased funding to put more cops on the streets, and his unwavering stand on revitalizing the city’s waterfront?

Will Toronto Mayor David Miller be remembered for almost shutting down one of the city’s three subway lines, to cut costs during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? Later, the city came up with new taxes instead of cutting the subway line, these taxes included an increased property tax by 3.8%, a new vehicle registration tax, and a 1.5 percent land transfer tax which was expected to generate over $354 million.

Or, will Toronto Mayor David Miller be remembered for his strong support of public transit? He created several rapid transit bus lines, supported the city’s public transit plan to purchase new buses, streetcars, and light rail systems, including a fifteen-year Transit City plan, which would expand public transit throughout Toronto.

How will you remember Toronto Mayor David Miller’s stewardship of Canada’s largest city?

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Canadian Study Claims Flu Shot Increases Chances of Contracting H1N1 Swine Flu

For many in Canada and around the world, it is an annual fall tradition – rolling up your sleeve for the once-a-year flu shot.

Medical experts for years have been telling us these shots are good for everyone, as they really do help keep society safe from the flu, by reducing contamination rates.

This may change, if an unpublished Canadian study proves to be true. The series of studies from British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario says that those who got a seasonal flu shot last year are almost twice as likely to catch H1N1 Swine Flu when compared to those who have not had the annual vaccination.

The study’s lead writer’s have submitted a scientific paper to a medical journal, but won’t comment on it until it has been reviewed by other medical experts.

Vaccination; 041028-N-9864S-021 Yokosuka, Japa...Image via Wikipedia

Traditionally, medical journals prohibit researchers from discussing their unpublished work, prior to it being reviewed and published.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned that this unpublished study will deter people from getting their annual flu shot, and is encouraging its member countries to promote and provide both seasonal and H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic flu shots.

News of the unpublished study isn’t new – the Public Health Agency of Canada knew of this study some time ago and has been keeping a low profile while it tries to determine the validity of the research.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also knew of the unpublished study, and has dismissed it due to lack of similar evidence in the States.

Whether the study is accurate or flawed remains the question for medical experts – but the immediate concern remains: should I or shouldn’t I get a flu shot this year?

Flu shots aren’t golden tickets promising those who get them a flu-free season. Every year, microbiologists, virologists and other scientists work together to crack the flu vaccine secret code for the following flu season. Their research is based on the trends going on around the world with the current flu variants, and the seriousness of those infections.

The flu virus is usually made to counter the effects of three strains of the flu – and these three strains are the ones those medical miracle workers believe are the most likely ones to harm the public.

That’s why the flu vaccine may differ in results from year-to-year. Usually the brains behind the vaccine are pretty accurate, but just two years ago they admitted defeat, as they publicly stated that they had predicted the wrong variants, and so the flu shot didn’t do as much good as it could have.

But with this new unpublished study making the rounds of medical experts desk’s the question isn’t if the annual seasonal flu shot will work, but rather, will it make you more likely to catch the deadly H1N1 Swine Flu?

And that’s the question I’d like to know the answer too.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Over One Billion NOT Served

Over one billion people are starving to death this year – a sad record milestone as reported by the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) last week.

Despite the economic downturn, thanks to transportation costs due to high fuel prices, and higher farming costs, thanks to climatic changes, the costs of food has sky rocketed since this time last year.

With more people in financial distress and the increases in food costs, the number of undernourished people worldwide has jumped significantly, all while donations to c

Mean surface temperature anomalies during the ...Image via Wikipedia

haritable organizations which feed the hungry have substantially fallen.

Donations to food aid programs is at a 20-year-low, the same report out of the UNWFP says.

The UNWFP is facing its own serious cash crunch, having only secured $2.6 billion in funding for its 2009 budget of $6.7 billion.

Donations to major food banks around the world are down, so to are corporate donations to these food banks and related charities.

"This comes at a time of great vulnerability for the hungry," the agency said.
"Millions have been buffeted by the global financial downturn, their ability to buy food is limited by stubbornly high prices. In addition, unpredictable weather patterns are causing more weather-related hunger."

Famines caused by droughts, floods and poor growing conditions have severely increased the number of starving people worldwide, particularly in seven of the poorest countries on the planet.

Sixty-five per cent of the world's hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia, according UNWFP.

Urban sprawl in major cities worldwide is also contributing to the global food crisis, as more farms are sold off to developers, who in turn pave over the once fertile land, expanding the concrete jungles of suburbia.

This in turn promotes global warming, as those who move into ho

mes on the once fertile farmlands now must commute greater distances to get to work.

And because of increased carbon dioxide emissions from the extended commutes, planetary temperatures increase, dramatically changing global weather patterns – which leads us back to the global food shortage.

It is a never-ending cycle of interdependence, which we human beings haven’t quite got just right.

We’re still trying to figure out our place in the great ecosystem of the world. Hopefully we’ll get it before we wipe ourselves off this planet – forever.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Doctors Push Politicians to Go Green

We’re on the brink of a global health catastrophe, according to the British Medical Journal and The Lancet.

Editorial letters in both medical journals urge doctors in 18 worldwide medical associations – including the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada – to pressure their politicians and governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions for the good of the human race.

Carbon dioxide emissions need to be cut by 50 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050 to at least give us at least a 50 per cent chance of preventing a global climatic event which could pose serious health issues for our species, according to the editorials.

"Failure to agree to radical reductions in emissions spells a global health catastrophe, which is why health professionals must put their case forcefully now and after Copenhagen," says the editorial written by Lord Michael Jay, who chairs the health charity Merlin, and Prof. Michael Marmot of University College London.
This editorial comes in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, being held in Copenhagen this December.


This past May, medical experts warned of the health implications of climate change, including increases in malaria spread by more mosquitoes, declining crop yields due to dramatic climate changes, and more extremes in weather such as flash flooding, more powerful and dangerous hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe storms.

Those living in poor tropical countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will suffer more from climate change due to the poverty and the lower standards of living.

"There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive," the medical experts write. "We call on doctors to demand that their politicians listen to the clear facts that have been identified in relation to climate change and act now."

On the verge of political unrest in the States – as American President Barack Obama battles Congress to send more American soldiers to Afghanistan, and to pass his government-funded universal healthcare plan, the environment

KUALA CENAKU, RIAU PROVINCE, INDONESIA - NOVEM...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

may have taken a back seat south of the border.

Here in Canada, there has been more talk on Parliament Hill about the constant squabbling among the federal political parties – each one threatening to dissolve The House and call an election – rather than debate the issues.
But if the editorials in both highly regarded medical journals have even the slightest impact on doctors in Canada and the States, your doctor may be able to push the environmental issue back into the political spotlight – where it should be.

"[We] have a responsibility as health professionals to warn people how bad things are likely to get if we don't act now," said Dr. Fiona Godlee, Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Where Creativity Once Was King

Regular readers of this blog know I have digital cable – literally over 500-channels, and still there are times when there is nothing on.

Can’t fault the cable companies though, they do try to keep things interesting by constantly adding channels to the line-up.

Being an amateur astronomer, I was excited to see the new NASA TV channel – which is currently on free preview.

This channel came online just as the Space Shuttle was flying a mission to the International Space Station. It was really amazing to see live video broadcast directly from the shuttle, the space station and mission control down here on planet Earth.

{{Potd/2006-01-2 (en)}}Image via Wikipedia

I watched as astronauts aboard the shuttle shifted the massive Canadian-built Space Arm to repair a satellite. I witnessed the live docking of the shuttle to the space station, and the warm greeting the astronauts gave each other upon opening the hatch, as they floated in space.

One of the most memorable images is that of Earth from space, as I saw a live video feed taken from the shuttle orbiting our blue-green planet. This was absolutely awe inspiring.

But when the astronauts are writing reports, conducting routine systems checks, or even just sleeping, the NASA TV channel quickly became just another pointless station on the dial. The images kept switching between mission control, and the shuttle, but there wasn’t anything going on – unless you enjoy watching people sitting behind computers typing.

The universe is a big place –there’s an understatement if there ever was one – the universe is MEGA HUGE. With the whole universe as its playground, you’d think the rocket scientists at NASA could create some interesting content for their TV channel.

NASA is the only organization to ever put a human on the moon, to land anything – even though they were robotic rovers – on Mars, and to successfully send probes into deep space and receive images and other scientific data from these probes – just to name a few of the National Aeronautic Space Agency’s (NASA) accomplishments.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to program a television station. With the amount of cool – and literally out of this planet – things NASA has accomplished, they should have no trouble airing interesting content that captivates the imaginations of those who may not have ever thought about astronomy, space exploration, or the any of the sciences.

Instead, for the most part the NASA TV channel is really dull. The “wow” factor of realizing the images are being beamed live from beyond our planet only lasts for a handful of minutes. Then the boredom of watching an astronaut reading in space sinks in, and you wonder who will ever pay for this channel?

That’s where the real problem will be, when this channel isn’t a free preview. Cable and satellite providers often place new channels on “free preview” for an introductory period, to generate interest in the channel, and get you to sign up for a subscription.

They are hoping you become addicted to a series on that station so much so, that you’ll gladly pay for a subscription.

But if the channel isn’t all that interesting, few subscribe to it, and it either is removed from the channel line-up, or becomes part of the regular subscription pack.

Take Teletoon Retro for a good example – a channel which shows old cartoons all day and all night. This channel was available to me as a free preview for over a year, and recently was added to my digital cable package free.

Bugs Bunny in All This and Rabbit Stew (1941)Image via Wikipedia

I enjoyed tuning in when it was on free preview, to watch some classic cartoons – like The Flinstones, The Jetsons, and Bugs Bunny and Friends. But I would never actually pay for this service – it isn’t something I’d watch often enough to justify the cost.

That kind of reasoning, or many others I’m sure, probably deterred people from subscribing to the channel. That’s why it was available for over a year – usually free previews are just that – a preview available for a limited time. And it is also why the channel is now part of my regular channel line-up. There simply weren’t enough subscribers to pay for the channel, so the cable company tossed it into the regular digital package.

Maybe the lack of creative ingenuity which is hitting the movie industry is also affecting television? With all the sequels, prequels and re-makes on the big screen, it appears no one has any original, interesting ideas anymore. Movies cost more, thanks to bigger movie theatres with higher quality picture and sound systems, but movies themselves are no better written – in fact they are

Upgrading the International Space StationImage by chatarra picks via Flickr

usually scripted far worse than previously.

Those creative geniuses bringing us new television channels, and shows on those channels must be suffering the same creative drought, if channels like NASA TV and Teletoon Retro are any indication.

And that’s really too bad, because of all the industries where creativity is king – television is supposed to rule.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

A Visit to the White House – What a Nice Distraction

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a joy ride south of the border last Wed. – or at least that’s probably how it seemed to him.

He met with American President Barack Obama for an hour-long meeting in the White House’s Oval Office. The two leaders discussed the economy, just ahead of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh starting today and running through the weekend.

They also discussed each country’s roles in the mission to Afghanistan. Canada has had soldiers in the battle-whipped country for over eight-years, but there are plans to pull all Canadian Forces troops out in 2010.

President Obama on the other hand is pushing for more American soldiers to be sent to Afghanistan this year and next year.

Canadian Soldiers should never have gone to Afghanistan in the first place – and will most likely end up in another place they should never be sent – Iraq in 2010 or 2011.

Afghanistan and Iraq are strictly American conflicts, begun by then-American President George W. Bush. Bush, the sly scoundrel he is, used the intense emotions stirred in his citizens by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 to launch attacks on these two relatively innocent countries.

President Bush originally launched air strikes in Afghanistan in what he called his “shock and awe” military attack, to get Bin Ladden and those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on American soil.

Almost a decade later, Bin Ladden (who boldly boasts of his success in his involvement of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but no one anywhere has actually provided proof of his involvement) is still running free, occasionally popping up to in grainy videos to taunt the Americans.

As the hunt for Bin Ladden dragged on, the American political machine needed a new scapegoat to distract the public’s attention from their failing mission in Afghanistan (the goal was to get Bin Ladden).

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - DECEMBER 14:  U.S. President G...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

That’s when President Bush and the rest of the executive branch of the White House launched their smear campaign against Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

They claimed Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and urged the United Nations (UN) to take actions against Iraq. Despite all the doctored images – which looked real at the time but have since been proved tampered with – the UN didn’t budge and would not support an outright attack against Iraq.

The UN did begin sanctions against Iraq, and sent over their own inspectors, to look for these weapons of mass destruction.

None were ever found, and the UN was satisfied Iraq and its leader were in the clear.

But trigger-happy American President Bush still launched an attack against Saddam Hussein, and in the process destroyed all the infrastructure of the tiny Middle Eastern country in the process.

Canadian soldiers are dying in great numbers in Afghanistan, as American soldiers are dying also in great numbers in Iraq.

But both these missions were unnecessary, and mismanaged from the get-go. American President Bush didn’t really care about bring those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to justice, he just used that event to go after the countries in the Middle East with the richest oil reserves, to secure oil for his country, and his former colleagues in the oil industry from where he originally came.

Republic of Iraq Former President Saddam Husse...Image via Wikipedia

Now America’s current leader, President Obama has to deal with the massive cost, lost lives, and lack of any signs of real victory in two wars. He’s also struggling with his push to launch universal, government-funded healthcare across all 50 States, similar to our Canadian healthcare system.

Here on his home turf, the Canada’s top politician is being made to jump over massive hurdles, just to do his job. Some of the heat is due in part because he’s only got a minority government, the other part is due to the childish antics of the opposition parties.

Prime Minister Harper is always facing threats of election calls for his head, by the Bloc, the Liberals, the New Democratic Party, or a combination of them. Currently, the Liberal Party is threatening to call a non-confidence vote to end the Prime Minister’s rule, and lead Canadians into yet another federal election – has it even been a year since the last election?

With the intense pressures both the current American and Canadian leaders are facing, their meeting must have been a nice distraction from the horrors of their worlds. Let’s just hope that distraction was short lived, and they can both get back to the business of running their respective countries.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Awkward Office Moments

Awkward moments happen to us all – that is just part of life. How we handle those situations is what really matters. But sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.

At the office the other day, and it isn’t all that uncommon to go over to someone’s desk to ask a question, or huddle around their computer to go through some work.

I was at one of the project manager’s desks, for a scheduled meeting. As a

Management of ComplexityImage by michael.heiss via Flickr

lways, I arrived slightly early. I’m always early for everything, which surprisingly drives me nuts, as most people are always late.

One of the advantages of always arriving early is the ability to scout out the location, to get comfy, and put all my things (laptop, notepads, pens, papers) within easy reach. I also sometimes stumble upon things I probably wasn’t meant to see . . .

Back to arriving early for my meeting with one of our project managers – got to the project manager’s desk only to find this particular project manager surfing one of those online job boards for jobs in the project management field.

Not exactly something you want to be caught with on your work computer. It is almost as bad as being caught surfing the net for porn on your work computer, or chatting on Facebook, or tweeting on Twitter.

Those are all pretty bad, but looking for work, while you are at work is a definite no-no – it says to those around you that you don’t want to be where you are, and you’re looking for something else.

The project manager was startled by my arrival, and quickly closed the web browser open at the online job board, but the damage was done. We both knew what was on that screen only seconds ago.

The question – what happens next?

The project manager could have made an excuse about looking for a colleague or a friend – but there would always be the element of doubt on both our parts. I would have some doubts about the story being spun by the project manager, and the project manager would have some doubts about whether or not I trusted the story I was told.

I could have brushed it off and said something about how it is always good to keep your options open, but again, that opens up a can of rotten eggs.

We did what most people do in awkward situations – stay deathly still and quiet for a few moments – which usually seem like hours – until something or

James, I think your cover's blown!Image by laverrue via Flickr

someone breaks the ice, taking us out of that moment.

Someone walked past briskly with a bunch of papers, and one of those papers fell – I bent down, picked it up and handed it back to the rushed person. Then I turned to the project manager and we talked briefly about how our days were going.

That awkward moment was gone, and we were back to work mode – thanks to a completely uninvolved passerby.

Though situations like this are easy to avoid – no matter what you think of your job, never look for a new one at the office. You never know who may find out you don’t want to be there.

That poor project manager probably thinks I’m going to mention this to someone – another co-worker, a manager, or worse, the project manager’s manger. I won’t – this time. Perhaps being caught in the act (so-to-speak) will prevent this project manager from surfing for a job while on the job.

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