Monday, December 31, 2007

Random Predictions for 2008

  1. Convergys diversifies and opens a call girl centre in St. John's.

  2. Cruise ship tourism will increase as word spreads that the rich color of St. John's harbour is rust from sunken German U-boats from WWII.

    Tourists inquire about harbour diving expeditions of the "wrecks".

  3. An extra lane is added to several city streets just for the Tim Horton's drive-thru line ups.

  4. You're going to get a gas tax break at the pumps because there is a small chance the price of gas may rise this year, just maybe.

  5. Danny Williams will change his ABC slogan to ABH, Anybody But Hearn, after Hearn's latest remarks about knowing the "inside scoop" on the 8th floor.

  6. There will be more tourists staying at B & B's and hotels, causing net Inn migration.

  7. There will be more transparency in government. Apparently Staples had a huge boxing day sale on overhead transparencies, and they sold like hotcakes to government.

  8. Labrador adopts the song "We'll Rant and We'll Roar Like True Newfoundlanders" as its regional anthem.

  9. Banks will take away all the ATM fees. Remember Jack Layton pressuring federal finance minister Jim Flaherty to encourage Canada's banks to drop ATM fees? Well the banks will finally cave because they know how fresh that idea still is in the publics mind.

  10. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will absolutely, totally deliver on his equalization promise to Newfoundland and Labrador because he feels so bad, and because Quebec wants it that way, because they gave NL a crappy option on the Upper Churchill, and feel guilty about it after all these years.

  11. St. John's will lose it's city with the highest obesity rate (36.4%) in Canada status because

    well, the tax dollars are rolling in with the St. John's economy on fire after all, and

    because Mayor Andy Wells will care enough about the citizens of St. John's and the 1000's of students who walk the life-threatening streets each day (and who contribute to the local economy), to invest in serious sidewalk snow clearing, and hence peoples' health. (oh yeah, there is also a Royal visit coming up and the Queen wants a city tour, in winter)

  12. Karlheinz Schreiber gets his own reality tv show (Karlheinz Catch-up) which has him hire ex-Prime Ministers, and pay them cash, which they will store in a safety deposit boxes for 5-6 years without earning interest.

  13. Federal and provincial levels of government will invest in the largest public education program ever to teach money-managing skills to youth in elementary, high school and post-secondary schools; and to educate the public about all harmful ingredients in food.

    The health care system will project a saving of $5 billion over 10 years. As a consequence banks will experience smaller profits due to better student money managing habits, decreased student loan need, and fewer credit cards being issued to students.

    As well, food companies will experience smaller profits because people will start avoiding dangerous foods.
    (Ok, that one's a joke, had to throw it in there ... (snicker) giving too much useful information to people where it potentially hurts big industry's interests .. yeah, right )

  14. Spring will start early this year, March 21.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Prosperity - Prime Crime Time

It's been said that prosperity carries with it more crime. Newfoundland & Labrador is only at the beginning of a period of being "prosperous", with the expected "have-province" status expected to begin in 2009. While there are large developments on the horizon, "and in the ground", a recent local CBC article, eventually gets around to a warning from RNC Chief, Joe Brown, of an increase in crime during the prosperous times.

At this time, NL's crime rate is low compared to the rest of Canada (Stats Can.). Crime in Canada is higher is the western part of the country, and in the north. Here's a CBC story on Yellowknife's "prosperity" problems.

Alberta with it's riches has a higher crime problem than most places in Canada, but it's not just urban places. In fact violent crime is higher in rural areas. There could very well be a link to prosperity, and our province should learn from places like Alberta where a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Safe Communities was set up, and made recommendations related to crime.

Why would prosperity be correlated with increased crime? Some of the reasons may include: there is more money to purchase illicit drgs, alcohol, products; more new homes that are vulnerable to wise bugler street watchers; more people at work and away from home; more mobility in the population, less family support, less community-mindedness; more provincial emphasis on economic development and less on societal issues, for example, programs for youth.

The majority of crimes are committed by re-offenders. Police are often familiar with perpetrators. However, there are still new ones. There are different ways to deal with crime, more police, policing, stricter penalities, and crime prevention.

Prevention is where we can invest in more, now. Getting at the root causes of crime. Our province and people need to understand factors that contribute to a person becoming criminal.

The Alberta Task Force report is large, but here are some recommendations from the report, on what works to reduce crime (p. 37):

What works?

Scientific studies on effective approaches to reduce crime include:

  • Providing enriched services to youth at risk of social problems by increasing their inclusion involvement in positive social activities and job training.

  • Helping small children to develop successfully in their early years. This can reduce child abuse by 70 per cent and cut the percentage of youth offending by 50 per cent.

  • Increasing the training given to youth about non-violent ways of resolving conflict.

  • Helping at-risk teenagers complete high school. Studies show this can reduce the number of youth offending by 50 per cent.

  • Teaching youth skills and expanding their capacity to manage relationships. This has been shown to result in a 50 per cent reduction in bullying as a well as a reduction in illicit drug use and violence (especially against women).

  • Enhancing support (such as enriched home visiting) to disadvantaged mothers who are at risk of not providing consistent care for their young children.

  • Lorraine Michael recently said that with the $881 million surplus, the government of NL should put more into social programs, like subsidies for single moms to return to school, or education programs for youth. That seems like a good long-term investment. It's nice to see larger chunks of the province's debt be chipped away, but the price should not necessarily be higher crime and fear in society.

    Monday, December 24, 2007

    No Offence, but Merry Christmas

    Some shopping centres in some of the country's bigger cities took down "Merry Christmas" and replaced it "Happy Holidays", so that non-Christians won't be offended. Before the political correctness factor popped up some years back, either greeting, plus others, were typical without one giving a second thought to it. There's a sense, to me at least, that using neutral greetings like "Happy Holidays" is equated with "knowing better". Memorial Universitys greeting on Christmas Eve is "Best Wishes for Personal Growth in the New Year." Nothing wrong with that or other neutral greetings. On many Canadian Universities, you won't find the word Christmas on the front pages at least. On this Christmas Eve some have no acknowledgment of Xmas or the "holiday season" at all, and some have "Seasons Greetings".

    There is nothing inherently offensive about saying Merry Christmas. It really just means "good wishes to you", or "enjoy the Christmas holidays". With over 70% of Canadians being Christian of some stripe, there's a good chance the greeting Merry Christmas will resonate with most. The fact is that Dec. 25 exists, it's a birthday of a special and good person, and from what little we do know, he lived an exemplary life, which is cause for celebration. You don't have to be religious to appreciate that.

    Many public organizations like tv stations, universities, and governments will say something more general or nothing. From their point of view I guess it is less confusing to avoid a specific religious greeting as they could get pressure from other religions to display a specific religious greeting for their special times of year. Then it can get more complicated since the number of occasions can become numerous and imposing on broadcast and web space.

    On the other hand, one could ask, "what makes the holiday?" Answer: Christmas, so why not say "Merry Christmas". The Telegram did today.

    There are people who don't care for any type of organized religion, and those that grew up with the tradition and still partake to some degree or other. If you see or hear a greeting that does not apply to you, ignore it. Different religions have their own special days, and accordingly they like to wish each other some related greeting. That sure doesn't offend me. They can display it any window, or say it anywhere. No offense taken. If Walmart wants to display "Happy Hanukkah", "Happy Eid", or "Happy Diwali", that's perfectly fine. These holidays don't apply to me but they do apply to someone, and everyone is entitled to celebrate whatever it is that is important to them.

    In a multi-cultural society, it's a given that there are special days to all. "Merry Christmas" should not be viewed any differently.

    What is offensive is hearing on radio stations, "Don't worry, you still have "X" number of weeks to shop." If anything should go, that's it. However, as long as the word "Christmas" keeps selling stuff for business we'll be hearing that again. Anyway, don't worry, there will be 10 months to go before you hear that again, 11 if we're lucky.

    Merry Christmas (i.e., best wishes) and have a safe holiday.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    With Barrels of Extra Oil Revenues We Should be Pumping More Into Nurses

    It's Christmas, and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will pump $100's of millions into the economy to keep the business community afloat. We don't have enough nurses, but there's lots of money floating around everywhere. This year, Newfoundland & Labrador hit the jackpot with crude revenues helping to more than triple the projected provincial surplus of $261 million. On Dec. 10, Finance Minister Tom Marshall announced that the projected surplus was $881 million. Yet, our health system, and people are suffering because of a continued shortage of nurses.

    The latest nurse news is from St. Lawrence. There is a nursing shortage there. In fact on the Burin Peninsula, there are actually 95 nursing positions "to boot", and 20 are still unfilled. The problems are workload, money and job security.

    Nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador currently earn between $45,000 and $82,000 a year.

    The nurses union says those are the lowest wages in the country, $8 an hour less than nurses in Ontario. - Debbie Forward, President, nurses union

    Though measures have been taken by government to encourage new graduates to stay in NL, it does not seem to be enough. Forward also wants the government to commit to jobs for new graduates and to step up recruitment efforts.

    This is not a new problem. Here's a similar problem in 1999 when there was a nurses strike:

    They want more full time positions created to deal with what most everyone agrees are overworked conditions for nurses. And finally they want more money. Nurses in Newfoundland are the lowest paid in the country. (CBC NL)

    There is reason for optimism though. Last month the NL government announced that they will begin negotiations on a new nursing contract months earlier than was originally scheduled.

    Earlier this fall an emergency room crisis at the St. John's Health Sciences Centre caused a commotion, which led to more nursing staff hired on there. We could use more nurses, and more incentives to keep them here. With $100's of millions from oil being pumped into the economy, there are barrels of opportunities to pump more into nurses, getting hired and staying here.

    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    Bad Xmas Gift Ideas II

    • "How to Become Good in Bed When You're So Pathetic & Useless"
    • "How to do Simple Everyday Things, for Dummies"
    • "'Twas the Night Before Daddy sauntered in Loaded and Ruined another Christmas"
    • "Under the Table: How to Avoid Paying Taxes on Income" by Brian Mulroney

    • Mulroney / Karlheinz Schreiber Snakes & Leaders game
    • Sponge Karlheinz Schreiber Square Pants
    • The Game of Trouble Shooting: Find the Missing DLL files for new Software
      (fun for the whole family including nan and pop)
    • The Token Corporate Community Donation Game: Who can donate more than corporate giants

    • An Eye Pod
    • The Rebuilt Commodore 64 Computer System

    • A Will Kit
    • Electric Bagpipes
    • Major League Baseball Steriod Injection Kit
    • $50 Gas Fill-up Gift Certificate (use immediately)
    • The Q-Ray Contraceptive Bracelet
    • Kelloggs Stool Softener
    • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sings Yiddish & Chrismas Classics with Stephen Spielberg
    • Mike Tyson' Riverdance Video
    • Home pregnancy test Barbie, and School Bully Ken

      See also Bad Xmas Gift Ideas for Kids

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    The Writer of "White Christmas" Did Not Live Here

    "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" is the chorus in the best selling single of all time, "White Christmas", written by Irving Berlin.

    Berlin, born in Russia (Belarus), wrote the song in 1940, by a poolside spa in hot Arizona. He must have been a long time removed from the hardships of winter - shovelling, freezing cold, scraping, trudging.
    Winter unofficially ended 7, maybe 8 months ago here. Sure, it is literally pretty, but the reality of winter is for many, a nightmare. Images of winter appear quaint to many in warmer climates, and that is easily appreciated.

    The refrain, however, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas", can sound absurd to someone who lives here. It equates to a northerner writing, "I'm Dreaming of a Swarm of Locusts", or, "I'm Dreaming of a Small Earthquake, or a series of Hurricanes", "... just like the ones I used to know..."

    For wishers of a white Xmas, dream no more. For anyone hoping for an early end to winter, keep dreaming.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Sending Out an S.O.S. - Message in a Bottle

    In April this year, bisphenol A, a chemical used in plastic containers and in cans, got major media scrutiny, as it had been identified as a dangerous substance that is found in drinking bottles and many other children's and household containers. Bisphenol A has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in animals. The Globe ran a story on it, but you can not access it without paying, so here is some key information from that article that is worth re-iterating:

    Low amounts of bisphenol A have been suspected to be associated with:
    • the early onset of puberty
    • declining sperm counts
    • and the huge increase in breast and prostate cancer

    In April, it looked like this chemical would surely be in the news again, and affect the bottling and canning industry. Today, and several days ago, bisphenol A has indeed gotten more national attention. This is good news. The lead story on the Yahoo Canada home page is "Canadian retail chain pulls plastic water bottles".

    Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op became the first major Canadian retailer to stop selling products that contain bisphenol A over fears the chemical can leach from plastic food and water containers.

    "Inconclusive science and regulatory uncertainty presently surrounds bisphenol-A (BPA)," the company said in a statement.

    Here are a couple of extra pieces of information of interest from the Yahoo site:

    Besides hard-plastic water bottles, bisphenol A is also used in some baby bottles and the linings of some food cans, including most major brands of infant formula, according to a study co-released this week by Environmental Defence Canada and the Washington-based Environmental Working Group.

    "We have study after study showing that this chemical is toxic,... and there are safe and available alternatives that are affordable, (ed. emphasis)" said Aaron Freeman, policy director of Environmental Defence Canada.

    Another piece of promising news is the federal government's creation of a chemical substance web site. Harper's government appear to failing in the eyes of the world on its role in climate change. However, some credit to them, on what appears to be the right direction in protecting Canadians from harmful substances. From CTV on Saturday,

    The government has pledged $300 million towards assessing 200 potentially harmful substances on the market, and regulate the most toxic within the next few years.

    Here is a list of other potentially hazardous substances listed on the government chemical substance web site as Chemical Substances of Interest to Canadians.

    Here's more on bisphenol A from the Gov. of Canada web site.

    There is a number 1 - 7 system used on bottle bottoms to represent what kind of plastic is in it. Check the number at the bottom of bottles for information on what type of bottle you're using. Bisphenol A is a polycarbonate bottle, that is # 7 on the bottom of the bottle. Here's a link for more detailed information on what these numbers mean. No. 1 bottles should never be reused.

    Pop drinks like Coke, add bisphenol A to the linings of cans to prolong shelf life. It helps make food and beverage companies extremely rich and is dangerous for people at the same time.

    Hmm, there are messages in the bottles. See if you have unlucky 7. Bottoms up.

    Saturday, December 08, 2007

    Remembering John Lennon

    December 9th was such a strange day in a way. The previous night a prolific creator of new exciting, inventive and melodic music, who was blessed with a unique, interestingly engaging voice, was shot and killed. As a post-high school student at the time, the day after started normally. Oddly, throughout the whole day, no one mentioned it, no talk from instructors or fellow students. But upon seeing the Telegram's headline after the 5 o'clock class, shock, sadness and disbelief immediately set in. It was inconceivable, 40 year old Lennon dead by gunshot. Could this be a reporting mistake in the paper? Well, supper time news confirmed it, as the story was the story for days. It was way too early for old film clips of the Beatles concerts or press conferences to be replayed as part of an obituary for one of them, but yet, there it was.

    He had just released a double album, the first release of new material in five years, and was planning to do a follow-up tour in 1981. Lennon by this time had also written enough material for another album. Since the Beatles broke up in 1970, the world wanted them to reunite. For years bitter court disputes, and some hard feelings between the lads after the breakup, had dashed any possibility of them reuniting. However, after the mid-70's John Lennon and Paul McCartney were becoming a little closer. It was possible that had he lived there may have been a Beatles reunion in some way, either new recorded music, or a concert, or tour. In a 1974 video-taped interview with a friend, Elliott Mintz, he said that it was possible that there was a good chance that the Beatles as a group would some day, make music together.

    (Actually, that same year, there was a recording with John and Paul singing together. It was not a polished piece of serious music business, rather, the two along with Stevie Wonder and some other friends jammed and did a cover of Lucille, and a couple of other songs. It was rough, but interesting to hear Lennon & McCartney sing in the same room after the break-up.)

    A few years ago, a British survey revealed that the majority of British people considered Lennon's voice to the the greatest of all time. That opinion differs from place to place and from time to time. But there is some quality about his voice that is clear, identifiable, and convincing. He could be a soft singer as in the perfect "Across the Universe", "In My Life" or "A Day in the Life". Or it could be powerful, partially raspy, with a controlled screechy kind of scream as in "Revolution" or their cover of "Twist and Shout". A song of his could have soft voice sections, and at different times seque into a passionate, throaty "screech", while still being a clearly enunciated expression, as in the refrain, "Don't Let Me Down", or "I'm So Tired". He sang with conviction.

    Combined with catchy, upbeat but sometimes interestingly but strangely arranged music compositions as in "I Am the Walrus" or "Tomorrow Never Knows", Lennon's voice completed the high quality of each song. Together, Paul McCartney and John Lennon sang in perfect harmony. Their voices both incredibly strong, and unique, blended on so many high notes, as in "Ticket to Ride" to strike an emotional string in the listener. It was mesmerizing musical magic. All four Beatles had unique and distinct voices, but John and Paul's together complimented so perfectly to make beauty from sound.

    He gave the world wonderful music, a fascinating voice, and peaceful words. Lennon was ahead of his time when it came to marketing peace - spending a honeymoon in a hotel room with the world's media around to get people talking and thinking about peace. He wrote the simple sounding but sweet "Imagine" with political change in mind, and later admitted to Rolling Stone magazine, "now I know how to make social and political statements in song, accepted - sweeten it with honey." John Lennon was a complex and very creative person, a clever writer and music maker. He left fantastic music, while reminding the world that peace and understanding is possible.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    "Calm" After the Storm

    Cape Spear, just a few miles from St. John's, is an exciting place to be when the winds are in the right direction (easterly), or like today, after an early winter storm, with the Atlantic churned up.
    (Note: not sure why users get a prompt to save pics - will try and fix)

    Some Drivers Need to Learn to Drive

    Every day without fail there are people running red lights, speeding, weaving, tailgating, whizzing by pedestrians waiting at crosswalks. It has been happening forever in the old capital city of St. John's, but in just this year alone, there seems to be an increase in mania on the local drag strips cross-town arterials and city streets.
    There is a low unemployment rate in the city, and possibly more workers, but there does not need to be reckless driving. Yet, the risks of accidents, injuries and possibly death, to me, seems to be rising. With only 100s of metres between many of the red lights, you would think "why rush and push, be patient", but in reality it's as if WWIII has started and panic has set in. The Mario Andrettis in the city should find a more appropriate drag strip to play race car driver, or, leave for work earlier, before someone gets hurt or killed.

    Careful out there folks, these are dangerous times. There's an improving economy, but there are many break-ins and serious crimes, much drug-related, and on top of that, the Christmas economy booster rockets have fired, and drivers are out in droves. To the road racers, slow down, relax, the world is not ending tomorrow, and God-speed.