Tuesday, November 30, 2010

$111 B for Ireland Bank Bailout - $15 B for Haiti

The Irish bank bailout announced two days ago turned out to be much higher and more costly than expected.

It is staggering, to say the least, that the Irish government was forced to accept an average 5.8% interest rate on the loans from the EU and IMF. Ireland is a country of 6.2 million people.

By sake of comparison, Haiti, devastated by an earthquake almost 11 months ago and now ravaged by the aftereffects of floods and cholera, is a country of over 10 million people, more than a million of whom have been rendered homeless by disasters.

It isn't the type of thing that running totals are available for, but the most up to date figure seems to be that $15 B, much of it long term, has been pledged to the relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti.

Reportedly, $37,000 has been given to each displaced Haitian family, although it is not readily apparent exactly how many of these cheques have been paid out, or whether it is possible to do much with these cheques .

Any way you line it up, something is not right here: $111 B for Irish bankers, albeit at loanshark terms, vs $15 B of invisible aid for Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people are living under tarps or tents if they're lucky. While it is discouraging enough to see the Irish middle class being forced into a future of austerity, Irish style "austerity" would be considered a paradise for Haitians.

No doubt that more needs to be done to aid Haiti.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rising Lake Temps Confirmed 12th Indicator of AGW Climate Change

Out of 104 large freshwater lakes tested in the study by NASA, the temperatures of 41 have increased significantly since 1985, 59 have increased but not significantly and only four had a temperature drop, none of them significant.

Among the two most startling increases were at Lake Tahoe CA and Lake Ladoga, Russia, which have increased 3 and 4 degrees F respectively. The study was published by the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Lake Ladoga, which backs onto the northeast edge of the Russian city of St. Petersburg, served as a lifeline for citizens of the city, then known as Leningrad, who survived the epic 900-day blockade imposed by the Nazis during World War II. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated across the frozen lake in winters and by boat during the summers. No word as to whether Ladoga remains drivable during the winter...

Other previous studies have predicted that the water level in the Great Lakes could drop as much as two feet by the end of the century if global warming continues.

Now with 12 undisputed indicators pointing squarely at AGW, denier audacity continues to baffle brains. Though the brains are responding, as climate scientists are preparing a more organized effort to counter misinformation, in consideration of impending smoke blowing of a Republican Congress in the U.S. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Buyers Line Up Overnight to Buy Paintings in St. Lambert

It may not be Christie's ($273 milllion) or Sotheby's ($222.5 million) but one still must agree it is at least a tiny bit impressive that people lined up overnight outside the Balcon d'Art Gallery in St. Lambert, in hopes of getting first crack at the new works of painter Richard Savoie.

According to an article in the Rive-Sud Express (citing gallery sources), some 75 people were lined up when the doors opened and a number of them had waited in line overnight.

Savoie had worked in pastels for about 20 years and become one of Canada's more well-known pastel artists. However, since he switched to oils, his work has drawn increased attention. The Nov. 7 exhibition of 35 paintings sold out in 15 minutes.

Savoie paints mostly realist landscapes with light "effects" and never misses a chance to include a tire track running through slush that would make Thomas Kincade proud. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's a Gas!! Let's Build an Import ...er... Export Terminal!!

In Case Anyone Believes the Petro-Biz is Short of Cash

Here's a cool bit of news.  Kinda restores your belief that anything is possible and good times are still rolling.

First, Turn back the clock to 2002. Things are looking pretty sketchy in the North American natural gas tank. Reserves are low. Exploration has pretty much hit a dead end. So the industry decides it's time for another liquid natural gas (LNG) import and regasification terminal. They pick a spot on the Texas coast, 70 miles south of Houston on Quintana Island and, shortly, there is an ownership group, Freeport LNG Development LP (50% owned by financier Michael Smith and 50% by ConocoPhilips) and a plan, with a tentative clientele (ConcocoPhilips and Dow Chemical) already waiting in the wings. Budgeted at $500,000 03/04 dollars, the terminal began operating in 2008.

In the meantime, what happens? Moore's Law kicks in. Computer hardware and software gets good enough to provide 3-dimensional geological modeling which enables precisely controlled directional horizontal drilling and hydro fracturing techniques to be used in natural gas exploration and extraction. Opens up whole new vistas for gas exploration.

Surprise, surprise! By 2010, the natural gas situation in North America is registering impending glut. What do you do if you just hit the "on" button on an importing terminal, when suddenly the place you are importing LNG to is already floating in the stuff? Easy. You switch plans and make it an export terminal. This is a little more difficult than switching the direction of flow in the pipes. Now you have to liquify gas and load it onto ships, instead of unloading LNG off ships and regasifying it. Totally different process.

Import Terminal + $2B = Export Terminal

Put together a slightly different group of players, throw another $2 billion of 2010 dollars at it and presto, you will have a new LNG export terminal ready to ship 1.4 Bcf/day to China by 2015.

Look at it another way. From 2003 to 2015, you've got a whole buncha engineers, equipment, businessmen, workers, techinicians, etc., etc., basically chasing their tails around.

And there's nothing to say that 2015 is going to turn out any more of a sure thing. Maybe China finds enough shale gas of its own. Maybe Russia finds new sources and gives the Chinese a deal they can't refuse. Maybe the whole fracking process runs into too much opposition due to effects on groundwater or other snag. Maybe some new alternative fuel comes along and obsoletes everything. Not necessarily all that far-fetched.

Yet they say this industry doesn't have the ability to invest in making the tar sands more environmentally sustainable.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Fast and Good Solution for the Haiti Situation

Question: How do we explain that all the corporate bailouts and the huge expansion of deficit spending throughout most of the world have not driven up inflation?

(I assume any answers will be guesses as this is economics)

Follow up question: When there are dire emergencies in certain parts of the world, why can't help be delivered faster, more decisively?

Case in point: Haiti. The situation needs to be resolved immediately. Spend the money required to do the job. Source out water purification systems. If necessary, send in the crews that have been putzing around laying pipe in Canadian municipalities over the past year or two.  Tag and track the expenditures. Spread the responsibility around to the rest of developed countries. i.e. Give the - the freaking G20 a reason for existence.

Monitor the economic effects and ask questions later.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Culture Clash or Brain Fart? Grey Cup Reporters Housed in Dry Hotel in Edmonton

Just heard Globe and Mail columnist Stephen Brunt talking about this on the radio. The hotel is also far out of the way. Brunt is wishing he stayed on in Montreal a couple of extra days after Sunday's eastern final.

Need we draw a line from this news to yesterday's item that the feds pulled out of supporting Edmonton's 2017 Expo bid?

Bombs Away! Koreas Exchange Artillery Fire - Does a Weak America Put the Planet in Peril?

With North and South Korea exchanging artillery fire and threatening recriminations, the U.S. bogged down and bankrupt, and the U.N. tragi-comically ineffective, are the world's hot spots at risk of blazing out of control?

Whatever you think of the U.S. and its policies, the absence of an omnipotent world power may set the stage for a cascading succession of turf wars or worse. Does a weak America leave humanity defenseless in a dangerous world?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harper Axes Edmonton Expo Bid Support - Prospects Dim for Quebec Arena

With news today that the feds will not be supporting an Expo 2017 bid, the speculation is that the Harper government is setting the table for a fast on new big ticket menu items such as the much anticipated new NHL arena for Quebec City.

Other cities bidding are Liege, Belgium, and Astana, Kazakhstan. Alberta and Canada's reputations have suffered such a pummeling under the Harper regime that it is difficult to imagine how a Harper-led tar-sands funded bid would be able to build any popularity to come out on top in a competitive process.

The initial budget estimate for the event was $2.3 billion, of which the feds would have been responsible for about $700 million, although security costs would have boosted the federal responsibility to well over $1 billion.

Doesn't seem like all that much in comparison with what the feds dumped in three days of the G20.

Although not officially dead, it is presumed that the bid will die without federal support.

The event would have celebrated Canada's 150th birthday.

tweeted via @avnishnanda

Friday, November 19, 2010

Potash More Significant Than Computers - Manitoba Prof Makes the Case

What was the most significant technological advance of the 20th Century for humanity? A debate held recently by The Economist moved that "the development of computing was the single most important technological advance of the 20th Century."

University of Manitoba Distinguished Professor and noted author, Vaclav Smil, argued against the motion, saying that the development of artificial fertilizers easily trumps computers. Considering that there were only about 1 billion people on the planet in 1900, with hundreds of millions undernourished, and that now there are 6 billion people, it would seem that Smil had an excellent case. However the Economist readers did not agree, handing the debate to Smil's opponent by a pretty substantial 74 - 26 % margin.

The rest of the story...

Bill Gates is a big fan of Smil, even featuring him on his The Gates Notes bloggy type thing. Smyl is a prolific author of what Gates calls important books. Among them, two landmark energy analyses and the recent, Why America is Not a New Rome, which Gates also likes.

In case anyone is wondering, Smyl is squarely on board with the rest of legitimate science on the global warming question, urging that we fast track efforts to achieve maximum energy with the least possible environmental impact.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pittsburgh Bans Fracking; Sydney AU Has "Secret Plan" to Permit Fracking for Coal Seam Methane

Pittsburgh PA has announced a ban on drilling for natural gas within its city limits. This is reported to be in response in part to corporations taking out leases to drill under area parks and cemeteries.

Although this is not the same specific shale formation as the Utica Shale slated for exploration near Montreal, one must acknowledge the geographic proximity and the experience with fracking that Pennsylvania and New York State have.

An extensive description by Monique Beaudin of the Quebec shale gas situation appeared in the Montreal Gazette Nov. 15 and was republished at least in part in "Marcellus Protest".

Sydney Australia's "Secret" Fracking Plans

Meanwhile, the city of Sydney, Australia, wants to wean itself off coal and has put in motion a "secret plan" to tap into coal seam methane gas deposits directly underlying the city. And drilling permits have already been issued, to the surprise of everyone, even a Green Party-led local municipal council. Wild.

Whether there is some difference in terminology down under isn't clear. The article in the Sydney Morning Herald where this news was reported includes the following paragraph mentioning fracking:

Coal-seam methane gas mining has been controversial in NSW and internationally for environmental damage caused by the so-called fracking technique used to extract the gas. In fracking, water injected with sand, salt and chemicals is used to fracture rock to force gas to the surface.

Media Fail: World Media Suckered By Big Oil Denier Lobby Over Copenhagen, Emails

An analysis of 400 articles written about the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change last December showed that less than 10% of the articles dealt primarily with the science behind climate change, according to an article in the Washington Post.

The study, prepared for Oxford University's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, showed that much of the reporting was focused on the relative non-issue of the hacked emails of British scientists, who have since been cleared of wrong-doing. The report's author, James Painter, wrote, "We need more discussion between scientists, journalists and policymakers on how to keep highly significant, slow-burn issues like climate change interesting and engaging to different audiences around the world."

Instead, the media permitted themselves to be led down the garden path by the Big Oil funded denial lobby and allowed themselves to be convinced that the email issue was important.

Also implied by the study was the fact that a large portion of the public may not be engaged at all by more dry articles about climate science. The study draws a conclusion that conference organizers in these situations could benefit from paying more attention to delivering a message that is going to be compelling for media and their readers.

Responding to this study on his blog, Al Gore says media are failing in their responsibilities: "Our media has a responsibility to educate the public on issues affecting the planet. Covering the climate crisis only as a political issue shields from public view the vital scientific and moral elements of the debate."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All-Canadian EV in the Cards with Magna - Pininfarina Talks?

News today that Magna is in talks to buy Italian contract auto manufacturer and design house Pininfarina SpA.

One angle that wasn't mentioned in the Globe and Mail article, was that Pininfarina is the same company that has been working together with the Bolloré Group to produce the Bluecar. The Bluecar is an electric car that uses new battery technology produced at Bolloré's plant in Boucherville, near Montreal, as well as at another location in France.

Bollore's battery is called the Lithium Metal Polymer (LMP), which is notable for faster recharge times and larger storage capacity by weight than traditional batteries.

This would potentially add the dimension of a completely Canadian built EV to the Magna - Pininfarina talks..

Take a Hike - At Risk Students Learn and Grow with the Best Teacher - Nature

It's called "Take a Hike." It is a an alternative education program in which barriers to learning are minimized, personal issues are addressed, and students achieve a greater level of social and academic success. Following up on the theme of yesterday's post about Georges Laraque's community-focused activities, it is most appropriate to pick up on Take a Hike, another great cause.

Vancouver-based Take a Hike is one of Clara Hughes' favourite causes.

Take a Hike is program that has the power to give young people a belief in themselves and their abilities, as well as a lifelong respect and appreciation for nature and the outdoors.

The program combines the following four aspects: adventure-based learning, therapies, academics and community learning.

Take a Hike has been around for over ten years, its foundation has raised over $1 million for at-risk students in Vancouver and its board of directors includes a generous selection of community and corporate leaders.

This program has all the attributes of something that would be worth taking nation-wide.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Georges Laraque Fast Becoming the Heavyweight Champ of Great Causes

A year ago, Georges Laraque was still the heavyweight champ of the NHL. That was then... and now, Georges is spreading good karma and good deeds about as far and wide as you could imagine. Ever since Georges left the CH I've been following his activities with interest and no small measure of admiration.
In fact, I blogged about it when he took on the Green Party co-deputy leader posting, which was not that long ago. Then recently, I started following @bgl27 on Twitter, and it gives you another perspective on the type of commitment that he gives. It is non-stop, intense and interesting in the sense that Georges is pretty much learning on the job in his new roles. Not to mention that he needs to worry about making a profit on some of this stuff!

Just to name a few of his causes and endeavors, first and foremost there is the huge effort he has given to the Haitian relief operation.

Then there's his vegan restaurants, Crudessence, his campaigning against cruelty to animals, involvement in fitness, and support of many other charitable causes in Edmonton and Montreal. Then he jumps into politics with both feet as a co-deputy leader of the Green Party. And that's not to mention several business or investment projects, most of which are also consistent with big Georges' favourite causes.

Georges wouldn't be the first athlete to devote himself to making the world a better place. A few outstanding Canadian examples include Steve Nash, Bob Gainey and Clara Hughes. Most or virtually all professional athletes do have their charitable causes but few become known for their charitable work.

Someone like Georges Laraque, who has both the inclination and the larger-than-life persona to take on major game-changing charitable enterprises, could go a long, long way.

How far can he go with it? Only time will tell for sure of course, but a lot of it will depend on the support he can get from the grass roots. Desire, good will and charisma can take you a long way. At a certain point, you need to build across networks of people. I could think of a dozen things right off the top of my head that Georges could lead...

For example:

* a major push for proportional representation in Parliament
* complete reforestation for Haiti
* eco-friendly urban habitat constructions
* green and fitness-oriented transportation infrastructure
* found a northern university to study sustainable coexistence with the Arctic
* DIY geothermal heating systems
* etc. etc.

All to say, Georges has had a few months of real sound achievements and, with help, the sky is the limit for this guy.
How to Have the Courage to Follow Your Beliefs
One of the best things he shows us is how to have the courage to jump into things that he knows he supports. So people who like what Georges is doing can support him in whatever way they can. Whether it be visiting his restaurants, attending his Green party events or providing other types of support, the key is, if you believe in it, take the plunge!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Winter Biking - Could a Toronto Gardiner Tube Lead to Cycling Innovations?

The concept of a transparent tube for part of Toronto's Gardiner Expressway shown in today's Star is something very interesting. Without having any cost figures to look at, we presume that the concept is somewhat viable, or otherwise why would anyone spend the time to come up with it at all?

The article does say that construction costs would be paid for by a toll and that there would be substantial maintenance savings because snow and weather would no longer accumulate on the road surface.

So, we wonder, if this concept is viable, could tube-style bike / pedestrian paths be far behind?

Winter cycling in Canada has long been the exclusive domain of kamikaze couriers a few fearless students. The near impossibility of winter cycling in most parts of Canada has made the bike a difficult form of transportation for people to commit to. Severe weather (not only the winter variety) proves just too tough an adversary for most commuters to even consider biking as a go-to ride. For many cyclists, a tube could be a year-round lifestyle upgrade.

Would it be possible to surmount the roadblock to super-healthy and green transport with a strategically planned network of bike tubes? The problems, costs and objections would be many but, if a tube for the Gardiner Expressway is doable, that fact brings the possibility of winter biking in tubes that much closer.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

China Wants More Gas Hogs - India Says They're Criminal

China wants more gas hogs but India wants fewer of them. At least that's the message one could take from recent news items emanating from the two countries.

Volvo's Chinese owers, Geely, who purchased Volvo from Ford this August for $1.5 billion, have now let it be known that they want to see Volvo producing more larger, luxury cars for the Chinese market. Volvo has been working towards the contrary, smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. The Geely comments came from Chairman Li Shufu in the state-owned Security Times. Volvo now has a dealer network in China covering 81 cities and sales have been soaring.

This in stark contrast to the situation in India, where the Indian Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, came out on the attack against German automakers Friday, saying that driving the big-engined BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes was "criminal."

“The luxurious growth of large-size vehicles like SUVs is really a growth of concern, use of vehicles like SUVs and BMW in countries like India is criminal,” he said at a UN function in New Delhi, according to news agency IANS.

The country should levy extra fees and mandatory fuel efficiency standards on these cars, the minister suggested.

"We cannot ask people to buy or not to buy a particular car. But through an effective fiscal policy, we can certainly have an impact," he said

The obvious difference between these apparent positions is that the Chinese viewpoint comes from business, an automaker, who probably have a particular niche in mind for the Volvo brand, whereas the India viewpoint comes from the political side. Although, one presumes that the public assertions of Chinese business would be basically in line with government policy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Free" Trade with India, Europe, Must Acknowledge Community-Based Commerce, Culture

Now that Canada and India have formally entered into so-called "free" trade talks and the "free" trade negotiations are well underway with Europe, the time has come to bring these issues front and centre.

First of all, let's get over the idea that these talks have anything to do with "free".

We're talking about implementing the same restrictions and regulations that resulted in the Dutch being forbidden to sell wooden shoes under European trade laws.

Let's put the cards on the table. These CETA talks going on behind closed doors and the upcoming India talks need to be driven by informed, engaged Canadians, not by (pick your secretive poison - multinationals / Bilderberg / IMF / World Bank / corporate power brokers / political agendas).

NAFTA was one thing. Free trade with Mexico has certainly introduced an element of wage disparity into the mix with our trading partners. Same goes in Europe, where, they also have the eastern and Mediterranean countries where the wages have traditionally been lower.

With India, this is not an "element" of wage disparity, it is a tsunami.

I'd like to know how you can have free trade with a country that has 100s of millions of people earning less than 40 cents a day? (2004/05). It is never, ever, ever going to make sense.

I am completely in favour of fair dealing with India to the benefit of all. I am not in favour of our community newspapers and Canadian corporate newsletters (for example) getting written by writers in India who get paid $2 a day or 1 cent a word.

Ultimately, "free trade" with all sorts of countries is going to mean less freedom for Canadians. Like the Chinese company CSR Zhuzhou rolling in and trying to force the Montreal Metro to switch from rubber to steel wheels for its cars so that Zhuzhou could put in a bid on the new replacement cars contract. Just the fact that there would be any question at all about Bombardier getting the job reeks to high heaven. When you have one of the world's biggest and best rail transportation companies employing thousands of workers right in your own back yard, what insanity is going to prevail on you to change your entire plan and design to accommodate the "free" trade rights of ABC Chinese train company??? Yep, and watch this ridiculous situation fester in the courts for years to come.

Next, they'll be telling us that a local municipality can't hire a local guy to pick up the garbage. As it is currently evolving, the whole "free trade" trend (i.e. globalization), which is clearly being driven from the top down, is the direct antithesis of the grass-roots driven, eat-local, buy-local, sustainable community trend.

In order for our communities to be sustainable and viable, our communities' local nature, needs and culture must be recognized at the free trade negotiating tables.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Greenland Prepared to Demand $2 Bil Bond from Offshore Drilling Oil Cos

News today that Greenland is going to demand that any companies wanting to participate in offshore drilling in Greenland waters pay a $2 Bil bond upfront that would be used to pay initial costs of any clean-up in the event of an accident.

Although overall this has to be considered a landmark piece of great news, in the wake of the BP Gulf disaster, there are many aspects of the situation to consider here, 

Among a number of concerns and issues:

1. The evolving relationship between Greenland and Denmark
2. This type of requirement squeezes out smaller companies
3. Will be interesting to observe how other countries follow suit 
3. This type of requirement may just divert offshore drilling to places that have the lowest upfront bond
4. Should similar bonds be required from companies involved in "fracking" for natural gas (a major issue in B.C., Quebec and elsewhere), in case of contamination of water supplies or other unforeseen event?
5. What will be the other impacts on the marketplace of this type of additional cost?
    - makes sustainable energy more feasible
    - makes tar sands more feasible
    - increased profit from conventional oil
6. How does this play out in the Arctic context? Direct impact on Canada.
7. Relationship with current trends - such as impending glut of natural gas
8. Could industry-wide bonds be a more balanced and equitable solution that would safeguard the entire planet rather than just have jurisdiction by jurisdiction regulations?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Something to Remember

The liberal, tolerant and fair values cherished by Canadians were formed during a time when a huge proportion of Canadian families included veterans of one or the other World Wars.

The veterans of the 1st and 2nd World Wars built the free, tolerant and just country that they fought for.

Now, the Canada they fought for is slipping away to a bunch of couch potato small time NFL gamblers and Fox News watchers who are macho in their own minds.

Mind you, only 29% of it has slipped away so far... LOL


Welcome to the Dark Ages - Merck Turns Out the Lights on Montreal Lab

 Branch Office Country Gets the Short End of the Stick Again

Merck turned out the lights in its high tech Montreal lab yesterday for the last time.  A direct victim of corporate conglomeration and globalization, the lab had employed 180 scientists and staff. The lab closure, announced in July, seems to be yet another instance of Canada failing to be a force to be reckoned with in business internationally. It is also another case of a company headquartered outside of Canada handing us the short end of the stick when push comes to shove.

The Merck lab was one of the few significant research centres run by a pharmaceutical in Canada.

The jobs were axed as a part of a global re-shuffling of the decks, after the merger between Merck and Schering-Plough a year ago. In this multinational game, you have the option to discard when shuffling, and Merck has leaped at the chance to ditch its high-paid Canadian research component and its lab, as well as the entire former Canadian head office building, which will now be too large for the employees left over.

Interviewed in the La Presse story linked above, the President of Merck's Human Health division, Adam Schechter, said that the company will continue to support research in Quebec via partnerships with biotechs and/or university labs, or in other ways. And, according to the article, the company has committed to spend $100 million on research in Quebec over the next five years.

Need we revisit here again the prophetic (and brutally honest) words of former BHP CEO Don Argus, who called Canada a "branch office" country?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hey Maclean's! Anyone Putting 2 and 2 Together? - Quebec's McGill Tops Maclean's University Rankings

Maclean's Magazine has again named McGill Canada's top university in the prestigious medical/doctoral category.

BTW, McGill is located in the same province sullied as the most corrupt in Canada by Maclean's just a few weeks ago, with a blaring front page banner and extremely distasteful front page graphic.

Anyone putting two and two together here?

I think all universities, especially McGill, should refuse in future to cooperate with anything this farcical excuse for a "news" magazine does.

Taxpayers Paying Half the Tab for Natural Gas to Process Tar Sands

You couldn't even dream of a cozier deal - let alone ask for one.

Big oil is running roughshod over Canadian and Alberta taxpayers, as well as the environment, with sweetheart natural gas deals that amount to a massive disincentive to use more environmentally friendly energy, says an article in the Tyee. The oil sands burn through 20% of the natural gas used in Canada. Why? Because we practically give it away to them.

The oil companies get to deduct the cost of fuel from their provincial and federal taxes. Then they get to "double dip" and deduct the same fuel costs from the royalties paid to Alberta.

Easy to see why there is zero incentive for any of these companies to use sustainable energy sources for processing the bitumen. Another reason why it's called "dirty oil" despite the promotional campaigns to the contrary.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lead Story Under ARTS in Today's Globe and Mail

Highlighted ARTS story on the front online page of today's Globe and Mail.

A promo for a TV cop show.

Rookie Blue with Missy Peregrym.

Monday, November 8, 2010

U.S. Steel Locks Out Canadians from Canadian Jobs

U.S. Steel has locked 900 Canadians out of their jobs in their Canadian plant producing iron and steel from (presumably) Canadian ore in Hamilton.

What is wrong with this picture?

CERN Creates 10 Trillion Degrees - Heat is on to Find Secretive Inventor, Calvin Q. Calculus

A Co2 Art investigation has learned that Calvin Q. Calculus has been living under an assumed identity in Switzerland for the past several years and has indeed been a key player in the hole mini-big bang experiment at CERN.

Q. Calculus, the inventor of the original portable hole, may be using his position inside the shadowy world of CERN to attempt to gain mastery of the universe by becoming the sole proprietor of mini black hole technology.

The mini-Big Bang experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider was successful yesterday, November 7, in reproducing "Big Bang conditions". That is, temperatures of over ten trillion degrees, or, a million times that of the centre of the sun.

"At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma."

Quarks and gluons are sub-atomic particles - some of the building blocks of matter. In the state known as quark-gluon plasma, they are freed of their attraction to one another. This plasma is believed to have existed just after the Big Bang.

Many have expressed strong reservations about these experiments, whose outcome seems to be less than reliably predictable. In fact, some people suggested that the experiment could go out of control and create mini black holes.

Co2 Art's investigation suggests that Calvin Q. Calculus may have positioned himself to actually divert the black holes at the point of their formation and remove them from the super-collider using his own portable holes.

As we speak, scientists in Switzerland are analyzing the qualities of the quark-gluon plasma, meaning that it will soon be known whether the mini black holes existed. If they did, where are they now? It may very well be that only Calvin C. Calculus knows the answer.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

$2.4 Bil for Latest Round of U.S. High Speed Rail - $2.4 Bil more than has ever been spent in Canada

About the only thing less impressive or convincing than the U.S. high-speed rail program program is Canada's.

Nevertheless, high speed rail in the U.S. does have a heartbeat, if barely detectable, and a new round of federal cash has been announced for numerous projects, as timid and modest as they may be.

Projects receiving funding in this round include Tampa-Orlando, Detroit-Chicago, Iowa, and California. This is in addition to $8+ billion awarded in January for projects including Seattle area, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

These so-called high-speed trains will "attain" a high speed of either 169 or 220 mph at some point on their routes, which is far less ambitious than high-speed rail projects in Europe and Asia, which routinely maintain speeds of 200 mph or higher. To shed further light on North American rail competitiveness, consider that China is investing $50 Bil on its high-speed rail system this year alone and will pump $300 Bil into it before it is complete.

Ontario Teachers and Borealis Buy Only British High-Speed Link

In Canada, meanwhile, the official abbreviation for High Speed Rail continues to be L-O-L! Even if we do boast one of the world's leading industrial rail corporations in Bombardier and even if two Ontario pension funds did just buy High Speed One, the high-speed rail link between London and the Chunnel.

Looking at the U.S. high speed rail map, it looks like a sure bet that there will be high-speed service at several points into the U.S. before there is any high-speed between Canadian cities.

But don't expect me to take Stephen Harper's visionless government to task for the sorry state of Canada's passenger rail system, just because they would rather put money into prisons to accommodate perpetrators of unreported crimes. No, I'll leave that to the pros over at the High Speed Rail Canada blog.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Have We Attained the End of Ideas? - World Logo Shortage Reaches a Crisis Point.

It has been predicted for ages. Even back in the '90s, when half of the new logos designed had some sort of a CD motif, logo doomsayers were saying the days of spontaneous, free flowing ideas were already at an end.

Imagination had reached a point of ebb. But, even in the face of such vivid proof of the dearth of ideas on the corporate globe, the dearth deniers held on to a strand of hope. Somehow our intrepid graphic designers got through that imaginative recession, tapping into fertile new fields of creativity. Rather than wilt on the vine, the logo designing industry has thrived. Logos were everywhere. The internet became a banquet, a feast of new logos. Then logo derivatives, like icons and avatars took their places alongside the earlier "pictograms". We might even say that the Onesies Decade, as yet unnamed, was the Logo Decade. Perhaps, somewhere back there in '06 or '08, we may have even attained that mythical summit of "Peak Idea".

But now, it seems, the end of ideas is nearer than ever. Witness the two logos shown here. It says something, not sure what, that they both originate in British Columbia. Both the Down Syndrome Research Foundation and the Kelowna Museums organization are proud of their logos and rightfully so. And yes, they are both kinda cool, especially the visible single crease, characteristic of the down syndrome palm.

Seriously though, if there is a message here, it may have something to do with the limitations of the corporate model to reflect the uniqueness of humanity. Or, put another way, as hard as a logo strives to exert a corporation's or organization's uniqueness, all it really does is show how most organizations are quite a bit the same.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Historic Kelowna Fruit Packing House Re-Opens Tonight as Museum & Cultural Center

It would be difficult to pack more local lore and historical significance into a building than you have in Kelowna's old apple barn, the freshly restored Laurel Packinghouse.
Tonight is the Grand Reopening of the Laurel, an historic and integral part of the Kelowna and Okanagan communities going back to 1918.

The new facility houses two museums, the B.C. Orchard Industry Museum and the B.C. Wine Museum, and also houses several other facilities, including an agrotourism center.

The Laurel also has multifunction space for group rentals. It is located in Kelowna's downtown arts district.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vikings on the Prowl: Strong Support for Unified Nordic State

A poll taken across the five European "Nordic" countries, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland, has shown that close to half of respondents would like to see the countries join to form one common union, with one head of state.

Such a country would have a population of about 25 million and would be the world's 10th largest economy.

Intriguing. Such a union would presumably take a bite out of the EU, as it doesn't seem likely the countries could belong to two such unions. It would also create a very substantial player in the "scramble" for Arctic resources and influence.

Potash: BHP says Canada is a "Branch Office" Country

A few miles down the road from Montreal, in the idyllic ski resort town of Bromont, there is a factory built to employ 800 people, substantially with $120 million (in 1988 dollars) of federal and provincial subsidies, that stands as a monument to the worthlessness of multinational corporate promises and commitments.

The factory was built by Hyundai to build cars for the Canadian market and, after generous subsidies pocketed, promptly shut down by the Korean automaker when sales didn't live up to their expectations.

The fact is, that between the time the Hyundai plant was conceived and the time it was closed, the cars had acquired a well-deserved reputation for poor quality and being poorly designed for the Canadian climate. Now, 15 years after the plant closing, Hyundai is selling 95,000 cars in Canada. Obviously, Hyundai's commitment to sell cars in Canada could never be questioned - however, its commitment to corporate citizenship in Canada obviously varies according to which way the wind is blowing.

The minute the ride got a bit rough, Hyundai bailed faster than a bandit, even though they were entirely responsible for their design problems.

Now on the subject of potash, we are talking about a strategic resource of critical importance for the future of feeding the planet. Not much trumps food. And, when it comes to growing food, here is the list of what trumps fertilizer:

Water. (Canada does ok on this count)
Land. (the land grab is on, but Canada has quite a bit)
Seed. (already largely under the control of a small few corporations)

So Industry Minister Stephen Harper - er - Tony Clement did the right thing yesterday and rejected the BHP bid for Potash. Unfortunately, he also did the gutless thing and left the door open for BHP to "present something" that would change his mind in the next 30 days.

I guess they don't get it. No "promise" BHP or any other multinational corporation could make can be trusted, nor will it make Canada anything but a branch office of Potash.

Even the Chairman of BHP agrees:

When reviewing BHP's application, Ottawa might also want to consider comments made in 2008 by BHP's chairman at the time, Don Argus. Calling on his fellow Australians to continue investing in domestic mining assets, he cautioned that Australia's resource sector was at risk of becoming globally irrelevant - just like the mining sector of another former British colony.
"If we fail to remain competitive," the BHP chairman warned, "Australia will incur a substantial opportunity cost and in the worst-case scenario, our resources will fall into overseas hands and we will also become a branch office - just like Canada."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

German Green Party "Blindsided" By "Unconventional" Gas Exploration in Densely Populated Areas

Germany's most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, has issued exploration permits to ExxonMobil and nine other companies, including at least one Canadian firm, to drill for unconventional gas across vast parts of the country.

According to reports, drilling in certain areas in 2008 by the Aachen technical university was not successful.

The German Green Party said they were "blindsided" by the news, which was reported today in the German online paper Der Westen. (in German). 

Citing an answer from state Economy Minister Harry Voigtsberger to a Green party state parliamentary inquiry into the matter, the paper said that the drilling would span across land equalling almost half of the state’s size.

The Green Party "parliamentary energy expert" said that the claims were staked quietly and secretly.

The articles cited mention "coal bed methane" or gas "stored in rock strata", without specifically mentioning that the companies will be exploring for "shale gas" or using hydrofracturing techniques, which are suspected as being responsible for contamination of water supplies in places where these techniques have been put in practice.

Recent improvements in exploration technologies have made it easier to discover shale gas deposits.

Germany is seeking to reduce its dependence on Russia as a source of natural gas.

No word on the cost of the exploration licenses.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lighting a Biogas Fire Under Canadian Municipalities

About 12 years ago, we were at the stage of saying, "Holy Crap! Lookit all the free biogas they're making in China!

Now, 12 years later, we're at the stage of studying the implementation of this in Canada. A few biogas and composting plants are slated for the Montreal area: one each in Laval and Longueuil, and a few in Montreal.

One of the affected Longueuil "Agglomeration" cities, Brossard, is not on board with the $930,000 study, because they have not had a chance to review the preliminary report. Which is just weird.

The illustration above represents something like what the Longueuil facility will look like.

These plants are going to process table scraps and other organic material to produce methane gas which will be used in turn to generate electricity for sale to Hydro Quebec. Reports state that each of the Longueuil and Montreal (Ville d'Anjou) plants, estimated to cost about $30 million each, will process about 100,000 tons per year of scraps and organic material and produce 3.8 MW of power capacity, enough to supply the electrical needs of 2000 families.

Public information on these projects is scant. The numbers vary from report to report.

Considering that the principles of biogas digestion are basic enough that small scale units can be largely self-installed on any Chinese peasant's family farm, one wonders why so much studying is needed.

One also wonders why such comparatively small projects are being conceived. And, what about sewage? How much power could be generated with all the sewage that is produced in a large metropolitan area?

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Everyday" Electric Car Distance Record Set in Germany - 600 km with the Heat On!

German scientists are claiming a new EV world record for "everyday" cars after a 600 km trip last week from Munich to Berlin was completed without recharging by an electric powered Audi. The project was run by two partner companies, lekker Energie and DBM Energy.  

The battery uses DBM Energy’s KOLIBRI AlphaPolymer Technology said to be 97 percent efficient and chargeable from virtually any socket — plug it into a high voltage DC source and it can be fully charged in just six minutes according to the car’s driver and battery inventor, Mirko Hannemann.

A Japanese car had set a previous EV distance record of 555 km just under a year ago. 

via The Local - Germany's news in English