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Posts Tagged ‘canada’

The CN Tower Struck By Lightning

August 29, 2011 1 comment

It happens pretty often, but seeing it on video is quite cool.

On August 24, 2011 there was a large electrical storm over Toronto, Ontario. The CN Tower itself was struck by lightning about 15 times in a half hour.

Inspiring Words From an Inspiring Man

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ll begin this post with the obligatory apology for the lack of posts recently.

The truth is I just got a promotion at work so I’m quite busy with new responsibilities. I’ve also gotten engaged! Hooray! (read more at my girlfriend’s fiancee’s blog here)

But the main reason I’m writing today is to share the sad news that one of Canada’s top politicians, Jack Layton, has passed away.

 

File:Jack Layton-cr bl.jpg

Jack Layton in 2008. Photo: Matt Jiggins

For my non-Canadian readers, Layton was the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, a left-leaning political party.

Layton was charismatic, funny, and very likable. Even those who did not agree with his politics could not argue with his enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, Layton passed away last night after a battle with cancer. He did, however, leave a final note to Canadians, written just 2 days ago, when it became clear that he may not be around much longer.

The full text is available here, but I wanted to share an excerpt with all of you.

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change…

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,
Jack Layton

It is unfortunate that people need to die before such words garner much attention, but hopefully Layton’s fight for better lives for working Canadians will not have been in vain.

 

Happy Canada Day!!!

June 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Wow. Soooooo busy lately! Don’t worry, I’m still alive. New posts coming soon.

But in the meantime, here is a great Canada Day song that I guarantee you will watch more than once!

Categories: Me Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bruins Win, Vancouver Riots, Rest of Canada Vomits

June 16, 2011 5 comments

Vancouver riots from June 15, 2011. Via Mashable.

It was a sad scene in Vancouver last night.

After a disappointing loss to the Bruins, the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Boston Bruins took home the most awesome of sports trophies, and y’know what? They deserved it.

The Canucks showed throughout the series that they lacked the grit, determination and heart required to be NHL Champions.

Boston, on the other hand, fought back from a 2 game deficit to win in Game 7. Good for them.

But the Bruins excellent play was overshadowed by the embarrassing display of some Canucks fans after the game.

As the rest of Canada watched, all we could do was shake our heads.

It is unfair to blame the entire city of Vancouver for the behaviour of a small number of ass-holes, but the blemish to Canada’s pride will not go away soon.

I’m ashamed that the people in these videos call themselves “Canadian”. The Stanley Cup Finals is when Canada is supposed to shine. It is when our nation and our game gets attention on a world-wide stage.

Instead, drunken losers have stolen the spotlight by acting like overgrown children playing with fire.

The situation is made worse by the fact many people have been hurt. Lacerations and even stabbings have been reported at the local hospital, further making these events a giant hit to our national pride.

But as I said, it is important not to blame an entire city for the actions of a relative few. In fact, a Facebook group called ‘Post-Riot Cleanup – Let’s Help Vancouver‘ currently has over 14,000 members.

So it is a dark day for Canadians. We try so hard to live up to our reputations of polite, mild-mannered yet fun-loving people. And although we do love beer and hijinx as much as the next guy, we rarely act like total morons like those rioters in Vancouver.

But on the bright side, the next hockey season is less than 4 months away :)

 

Depressing…

May 24, 2011 Leave a comment

The 7-day forecast for Calgary. Kill me now.

Categories: Me, Nature Tags: , , , , ,

Please Don’t Build a Cellphone Tower Because We’re “Afraid of the Unknown”

May 23, 2011 3 comments
File:Cell Phone Tower.jpg

Photo by Joe Ravi

The CBC reports that residents of Surrey and Port Coquitlam, BC are petitioning against the construction of two new cell phone towers in the area.

There is a proposal on the table to build two cell phone towers in the area of Cloverdale, as people often complain of losing their cell phone signal in this area.

Some residents oppose the construction mainly due to fear of health effects from the radiation emitted by the towers.

The CBC interviewed a Coquitlam resident, Andrea Gretchev, and asked what she thought the tower construction would do and why she opposed its construction,

“I can’t say that this causes anything in particular, because I don’t know,” Gretchev said. “But because I don’t know, I don’t want to live next to a cell tower.”

Fear of the unknown is a natural human response and I can’t begrudge the residents this natural instinct.

But for comparison, lets look at the situation of me being afraid of the dark when I was a child.

I was afraid of the dark because I didn’t know what was out there. I was afraid of the unknown. As soon as my Dad turned the light off, there could be monsters, or aliens, or giant-ass bugs waiting to attack me.

Periodically, I would race to the light-switch and turn on the light, exposing everything in the room to electromagnetic radiation (in the visible range, of course).

At once, I realized nothing was there. I was safe. I didn’t have to be afraid anymore.

Eventually, I learned that there really was nothing to fear when the lights went out. Just because I couldn’t see the rest of my room, didn’t mean I had to be afraid of it.

So is there a similar “light-switch” in this situation that we can flip on so the residents of southern British Columbia don’t have to be afraid of cell phone radiation anymore? Why yes there is. And its scientific data.

Seeing as I’ve written on this issue many, many times before, I won’t rehash all my past arguments. But the scientific data is quite clear that there is absolutely no credible evidence that cell phone radiation causes adverse health effects.

You would think that this information would be enough, but I’ve had enough experience debating this issue that I know this is not nearly enough.

“Science has been wrong before,” is the counter-argument I most often hear.

“Well,” I reply, ” should we then also be afraid of broccoli?”

“What do you mean?” my opponent asks.

“Science has shown that broccoli is quite healthy for us. But if science has been wrong before, should we therefore avoid broccoli completely? Just in case?”

So when debating the issues, lets stick to the facts and not logical fallacies.

I know its tough. There are a lot of quacks out there trying to convince us that cell phones and power lines and Wi-Fi are dangerous, in complete opposition to all of the credible scientific evidence.

Hell, if you do a Google search for any of these topics, no doubt you will find more fear-mongering websites talking about the “possible” dangers with electromagnetic fields than references to scientifically valid papers.

Scientists may not have the Search Engine Optimization teams that these fringe websites do, but they have the truth on their side. And the truth continues to indicate that we have no reason to fear our phones.

Still not convinced? Have a look at this map showing all the cell phone towers in the lower British Columbia area (also available as an iPhone app):

Map of all cellular phone towers in the lower British Columbia area.

In this sea of towers already in existence, and all those near your house that you have been living peacefully beside for the past several years, will two more really make a difference?

More than that, with the explosion of cell phone use and cell tower construction in the last decade, isn’t is odd that no increase in cancer rates have been seen?

We should have at least seen a small effect by now if there were any health risks associated with these towers or cell phone use.

But again, I’ve had this argument enough to know that data and common sense won’t convince anybody. Anything new and widespread will inevitably cause people to be afraid. Much like microwave ovens did in the 1950s and 60s.

By the way, no adverse health effects have ever been reported with the proper use of a microwave oven. I guess we will have to wait about 60 years before people will start chilling out about their cell phones.

So Its The End of the World…

May 20, 2011 3 comments
File:Judgment Bus New Orleans 2011.jpg

Photo by Bart Everson

As you are no doubt aware, tomorrow is the rapture.

Yes, Jesus is going to return to Earth tomorrow to take all the good people with him to heaven. This has been predicted by a multi-millionaire radio station owner named Harold Camping.

How did he make this prediction? I’ve actually seen a couple derivations from Camping on this, but an excerpt from FamilyRadio.com states:

Holy God reminds us that one day is as 1,000 years. Therefore, with the correct understanding that the seven days referred to in Genesis 7:4 can be understood as 7,000 years, we learn that when God told Noah there were seven days to escape worldwide destruction, He was also telling the world there would be exactly 7,000 years (one day is as 1,000 years) to escape the wrath of God that would come when He destroys the world on Judgment Day.

Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar).

4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000

Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C.

God is proving to us that we have very accurately learned from the Holy Bible God’s time-plan for the end of the world.

So there you have it, irrefutable proof that the world is ending tomorrow.

Sorry :(

So what will become of the sinners? Well we are going to be left behind to think about what we did…until October.

On October 21st, the world will actually be destroyed by fire.

Now, at first I thought that I might be able to escape judgment. I mean, I’m not a bad guy. I donate to charity, I’ve helped old ladies cross the street, and I’ve never murdered anyone.

But then I realized how horrible a person I really was. I eat meat on Fridays. I don’t go to Church every Sunday, and I’ve been spending the past 5 years living in sin with the love of my life.

Not only that, but I believe that homosexuals should be allowed to get married! What was I thinking?!? Camping has clearly pointed out that it is the gays who are to blame for this horrible upcoming Judgement.

Camping says God will punish America and the rest of the world for Gay Pride and same-sex marriages, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were punished with fire and brimstone in the Old Testament.

I should have known better.

So now the only question is: What am I going to do with my last night on Earth before Jesus metaphorically (or perhaps literally) bitch-slaps me?

A good question. I should probably get drunk. But then, it is May 2-4 long weekend, so that was probably going to happen anyway (for my non-Canadian readers, May 2-4 is the colloquial term for Victoria Day, a national holiday in Canada).

I could repent, but that somehow feels like giving up.

I could sell all my possessions and spend it all on strippers and drugs. But then, I might catch a nasty disease and have to spend my last few months on Earth suffering more than I should.

Well I guess I will be getting drunk. If I wake up tomorrow before Jesus arrives, I will blog again. Otherwise, this may be the last time you hear from me. Thanks for being such loyal readers!

How will you all be celebrating Judgment Day?

What Do the Party Platforms Say About Science and Research?

April 19, 2011 4 comments

As with every Canadian election, the primary issues are healthcare, the deficit, and the “scandal” de jour (Conservatives being in contempt of Parliament is this year’s scandal).

But what about science and research? This is an issue which gets lost in the fray of other issues, but is vital to Canadians maintaining a strong image around the world, as well as strengthening the economy.

So I went through all the party platforms in an effort to summarize their views on science, technology, and research. As a first step, I counted the number of times each of the words “science”, “technology”, and “research” each appear in the party platforms.

The results certainly jump out at you. The Green Party seems to be most interested in funding research and technology. This mainly stems from their wish to increase funding to “green” technologies, in an effort to save the environment.

The Conservatives and Liberals are pretty similar. In the Conservative Party platform, their promises regarding scientific endeavours are:

  • Establish 10 additional Canada Excellence Research Chairs;
  • Support the outstanding work of the Institut national d’Optique in the fields of optics and photonics;
  • Invest in strengthening the Perimeter Institute’s position as a world-leading research centre for theoretical physics; and
  • leverage funding to support Brain Canada’s efforts to support new diagnostics, treatments, and cures for brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s Disease.

In addition to these measures, the Conservatives discuss their “Digital Economy Strategy”, which includes (I’m summarizing here)

  • Extend broadband coverage to 200,000 additional rural homes
  • Increase competition in the wireless market
  • Support projects between colleges and small businesses to accelerate the adoption of new technologies
  • Promote enrollment in science, technology, engineering and math post-secondary programs

These points sound very well and good, but are very vague and I wonder how they would actually get implemented.

The Conservative Platform also states the Liberals and NDP “opposed” these measures when they forced this election. However I believe this is misleading, because rejecting a budget does not mean they reject every expenditure in the budget.

So what about the Liberals? What are they up to? Here are a few key points pulled from the Liberal Party platform:

–  A Liberal government will work with provinces, territories and the research community to bolster innovation in the health and bioscience field, improve the health of      Canadians, and help bring Canadian products to global markets.

– A Liberal government will make digital technologies one of its Canadian Champion Sectors, boosting incentives for investment in innovators seeking to conquer world markets.

– A new Innovation and Productivity Tax Credit (IPTC) that will grant Canadian investors a 15 percent tax credit for investments in small, early-stage start-ups that don’t yet have the track record to seek financing from more traditional sources such as banks and the stock market.

– An extension of the popular “Flow-Through Shares” tax model to start-ups in the three Canadian Champion Sectors. This tax incentive would allow venture companies with little or no revenue to pass on tax deductions to investors, creating a significant incentive to invest in Canadian entrepreneurs from promising sectors where Canada can become a world leader.

– A Liberal government will launch a new Innovation Gateway providing a “single window” approach that consolidates government support for innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging fields as well as long-standing areas of strength like aerospace, manufacturing and natural resources.

The Liberals also take advantage of the Conservative government’s poor record of investing in “green” technologies and taking action on climate change, which he once called a “socialist scheme”.

The Liberals discuss investing in cleaner technologies for processing the oil sands and reducing carbon emissions, though details on their plans are sketchy. Indeed, they state that investment in these fields will occur “as the economy improves”, which certainly allows plenty of room for interpretation on timelines for implementing these strategies.

Let’s take on the NDP next. As you can see from the above graph, the NDP does not talk about science to the extent of the Liberals and Conservatives. Part of this has to do with the fact that the NDP’s platform is quite a bit shorter than the other parties, but it also deals with the fact that the NDP’s primary concern is healthcare, job creation in all sectors, and social programs.

When they do discuss scientific issues, it deals with climate change and renewable energy. Some points from their platform (again, I’m summarizing):

  • Reduce green-house gas emissions to 80 percent below that of 1990 by 2050.
  • Introduce a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system
  • Cut subsidies to non-renewable energy
  • Federal financial incentives for “clean” energy, such as solar, wind, tidal and biomass
  • Support for research of “made in Canada” green technologies
  • Establish “Green Bonds” so Canadians can invest in green technologies and energy

The NDP chooses to spend their money directly helping Canadians. Which is all well and good, but I feel they don’t do enough to help bolster the economy, which is increasingly dominated by the technology industry.

Ok, now as for the Bloc. Well they hardly mention science at all, and I feel this political cartoon summarized not only their debate strategy, but their platform too, so let’s not waste any time on them.

Cartoon by Brian Gable - The Globe and Mail

Ok, so now we come to the dear Green Party. As I mentioned earlier, their platform discusses science and research more than any other party.

Of course to be fair, the Greens have exactly zero chance of winning this election (and a very slim chance of even winning a seat), so they are free to talk about how much money they want to throw at “green” technology research, without worrying about where this money is actually going to come from.

[Aside: I’ve been writing this post over about a week. It would appear that the Green Party platform I used to generate the graph at the top of the page is no longer the “official” platform. The document is now called their Vision Green and they describe it as “a comprehensive statement of our policies and programmes”. I’m not sure why they aren’t using it as their official platform anymore, but I just wanted to make that clear so you guys don’t think I’m making stuff up.]

So when the Greens talk about science and technology is pretty much always has to do with the environment and climate change. Some of the major points include:

  • Retrofitting Canada’s buildings to a high level of energy efficiency by 2025
  • Upgrade all low-income housing by 2025
  • Provide grants to cover 50% of the cost of solar-powered roofs
  • Rapid deployment of wind turbines to generate 17 GW of power (enough to power ~14 DeLorean time machines, FYI)
  • All bikes and bicycle gear will be tax-deductible and GST free
  • Massively increase funding to public transportation systems
  • 85% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2040
  • By 2017, no landfill will be able to operate without methane capture

And the list goes on. And on, and on…

All these changes will require a huge investment in researching of new technologies, assuming they ever got put in place.

These policies are well-meaning, and many of them have been implemented in other countries. But to try and get them to work in Canada, and so many of them at once, seems unfeasible.

In addition “science”, “research” and “technology”, I also made a chart searching all the party platforms for the word “homeopath”,

Indeed, as Skeptic North pointed out, the Green party would put a greater emphasis on homeopathy and other alternative medicine in our health care plans.

It makes me wonder how a party that talks a big game about using science and research to better our planet, can so greatly miss the mark on science and research in healthcare. Something to consider.

Be sure to vote on May 2. Check Elections Canada for all pertinent information.

The Science of Your Political Views

April 18, 2011 Leave a comment

While Canadian politics could never match the emotional idiocy of American politics, I’ve seen some pretty heated discussions in the past few weeks.

The Canadian federal election is a couple of weeks away, and with the debates over and done, we are in the home stretch of campaigning.

But how much do attack-ads and party platforms really affect our decision of whom to vote for? Is it possible that our political leanings are more influenced by ‘nature’ than ‘nurture’?

An article in The Globe today discusses the neuroscience behind political viewpoints. As it turns out, the brain of a conservative works differently than that of a liberal.

Dr. David Amodio, Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University, discussed what these differences were, and how they affect what political party we support.

According to a 2007 paper Dr. Amodio published in Nature Neuroscience:

on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty.

So conservatives tend to be more, shall we say, stubborn in their political viewpoints than liberals, who tend to gather more information and can be more flexible with their views.

While this may conjure up a stereotypical image of the crotchety old man, so set in his ways that he refuses to vote for anyone but the Conservatives, you should take these studies with a grain of salt.

It is only fair to point out that most of these studies are designed by liberals and may have some bias, and there are certainly many exceptions to these “rules”.

One very interesting study discussed in The Globe conducted at Princeton University:

people were shown black-and-white photographs of the faces of rival political candidates. After viewing each pair of photos for a mere half a second, they were asked which candidate looked more competent. In fact, the candidates they judged to be more competent had won their races two-thirds of the time.

This indicates that, regardless of political leanings, people tend to vote with their emotions as much, if not more, than with their brains. As much as I hate attack ads and staged photo-ops, it would seem the strategists are using science to their advantage.

So whether you identify yourself as a Liberal or a Conservative, NDP or Green, it couldn’t hurt any of us to be aware that the way our brains work can influence how we vote, and we should make an extra effort to stay informed on all the issues; instead of voting for the same party every time just out of habit.

Playboy Names My University One of Top 10 Party Schools

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Middlesex college, UWO campus - Photo Credit: Mark Russell

Yes, my alma-mater, the University of Western Ontario, home of world-class scientific research, has been named #4 on Playboy’s annual ranking of the Top 10 Party Schools in North America. [WARNING: Link NSFW]

How is this prestigious list determined?

We gather info from thousands of students from our Playboy on-campus Facebook pages, survey our students reps at schools across North America and interview countless others. We draw up stats (male-female ratio, winning percentage of sports teams, etc) and add bonus points for schools in the vicinity of beaches, ski slopes and music scenes.

In other words, they just kinda pick and choose.

But still…Woooooo! Partaaaay!

My favourite occasions were always Rick McGhie at the Wave on Wednesdays, Friday afternoons at the Grad Club, and Pancake Keggers for St. Patty’s Day.

Let’s see, can I find a picture of my drunk self from University?

Well, that’s the morning after… in a bed other than my own. Close enough.

Party on!