Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beach Dumps - Using and Abusing

Evidence of someone's new years eve fireworks fun, and no new resolution to pick up their garbage.Discarded fireworks boxes and cannisters at a beach near Outer Cove

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Swearing In, Again

Sure it was not legally needed, but President Obama is not taking any chances. Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts mistakingly rearranged the word "faithfully" in the Oath of Office lines, which triggered an unexpected pause from Obama, then a repeating of the lines correctly from Roberts, but then a misspeak from Obama. Anyway, on Wednesday night the two did a reswearing-in.

Though Obama was actually made president at noon on Jan. 20, before the Oath anyway, there are some who might challenge him at a future date, or threaten him, and use the flubbed swearing-in as an excuse to do some harm. Good on Obama for acting quickly, and getting this out of the way. With a few clusters of nutcases looking for vulnerabilities, it's best to minimize the risk of threats like that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Black President Effect

There is an authentic sincerity in the reaction of black Americans, that this presidential change of guard really is something to celebrate. Obama's rise to the top was relatively quick, for just in 2007, he was a just another black hope, for a while. Some are still pinching themselves to make sure this is real. This is really a win for everyone in the U.S. and for anyone anywhere with dreams that prejudice and inequality can be overcome. It is truly heartwarming to see African-Americans jubilant, ecstatic and celebrating with their hearts into it.

How many people have cried tears of happiness. Entertainer, Usher, who reported from one of the many galas, told Larry King, that he could not be happier. Kids interviewed in schools now had a new hero, a political leader. The very installment of Obama as United States President is itself a gigantic example of what anyone could do with hard work and determination.

It may even change popular culture. Music and lyrics may not so much criticize the system or the "man" as being part of a problem. Some comedians may have to find a new angle to poke fun at politicians, at least till Obama's honeymoon period is over. But blacks are going crazy with happiness at the first black president, and that is about time to see. It is amazing to witness millions so positively affected, motivated, encouraged and hopeful about as Usher put it, a "further abolishment of inequality". That's something for anyone anywhere to celebrate because it means our society has evolved in its thinking, attitude and perception. It does not end all racism but the prospects for decreasing it just got a resounding boost, and not just at the U.S. ballot box, but by peoples' happy endorsement of it around the world.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Presidential Inaugurations - Oddities and Old Pictures

True or False: At one Presidential inauguration the Vice President showed up drunk.

True. In 1865 after a long campaign across the country Vice President Andrew Johnson was exhausted, and contracted typhoid fever. On the day of Lincoln's inauguration, he used "medicinal" whiskey to try and strengthen himself, but became so polluted that he drunkenly hobbled through his speech, "slurring his words, repeating lines incorrectly, and was interrupted by officials to administer the oath." He also used the occasion to lambaste any political opponents in attendance.(source)Too bad the motion picture camera was not invented yet. Witnesses said that friends would not let him take the reins of the horse to ride home that night. (ok, that part's false)

The first President, George Washington, travelled for seven days from his plantation home in Mount Vernon in Virginia, to the capital New York. Along the way celebrations took place in no less than five towns, including Philadelphia. One of his New York greeters was George Clinton - not the Funkadelic George Clinton, but Governor George Clinton (and later the 4th Vice President).
From one witness account, Washington appeared nervous while giving a speech to Senators just after his formal oath. He may have tried to memorize the speech without reading it, as there were long pauses.

Things were not quite as organized, believe it or not, as they are at modern inaugurations. New York's highest ranking Judge Chancellor Robert R. Livingstone was to administer the Oath of Office, but upon arriving at the balcony to proceed with the ceremony, he realized there was no bible there, and sent a messenger to a nearby Masonic lodge to borrow one. (source)

One of the worst inaugural speeches was given in 1841 by President William Harrison. It was 8000 words and took two hours in a snowstorm. It not only bored the crowd, but may have been a contributing factor in his death from pneumonia a month later.

The poet Robert Frost was asked to recite a newly written poem at John F. Kennedy's 1961 inauguration. However, being 87, and with the bright sun blinding him from properly reading his new poem called "Dedication", Frost was having trouble reading it. Richard Nixon used his own top hat to help shield the sun for Frost, but the poet gave up. He then recited a poem he was very familiar with, "The Gift Outright" perfectly.

Lincoln's first inauguration 1961 - the dome was being constructed on the Capital building
A shot of famous Pennsylvania Avenue in 1865 - Lincoln's second inauguration

From 1985, this could be the only picture of President Lincoln giving a speech at either of his inaugurations. (This is a zoom cutout from the larger view of Abe's second inaug.)The picture quality is poor, but the crowd seem to be directing their attention to the tall, bearded fellow, without the top hat.

Click to enlarge.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Giant Leap for Mankind - Obama's Inauguration

U.S. Presidential Inaugurations are huge events, sort of like a royal coronation or wedding. Obama's inauguration on Tuesday, may get a record number of viewers for his inaugural speech, if the hype and excitement leading up to it are an indication. It is very exciting. In fact, if there's a scalper out there with one of the 28,000 seat tickets, please leave message. Kidding aside, this event obviously so historic, has actually brought hope to people everywhere, and for the moment at least, abundant happiness to millions, especially African-Americans.

One of their own has made it to the top - who can't be happy for them! In interviews they will say that they never dreamed of seeing a black president, and the reaction is still almost disbelief, as if it's too good to be true - yet they are celebrating it for what it is, a giant leap for mankind.

Just over 200 years ago, the first President, George Washington, inaugurated in 1789, would never have had the idea of a black president circulate in one brain neuron. His family were slave owners, and he inherited 11 after his father died in 1741, and by 1774, he was paying taxes on 134 slaves.

In a way African-Americans were in the White House in Washington's day. He had brought slaves 7 slaves to New York (then the U.S. capital) in 1789 to work in his household, and 9 to Philidelphia in 1790. (The White House was constructed between 1792-1800.)

By Abe Lincoln's second inauguration, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, which freed slaves, had been implemented two years previous. Though the slaves were told they were free, it still took many decades later for real equality to be actualized in American society.

It was not until the 1960's that all impediments to the black vote were removed. For about 90 years after slavery was abolished, blacks for all intents and purposes could not vote, though, they could - if certain conditions were met. For example, after Lincoln's death, it was legislated that all voters had to be literate. Practically none of the slaves were, nor were their parents or grandparents.

Legislators also introduced laws that only permitted voting eligibility if a poll tax had been paid, thus, making blacks and even poor whites out of luck. By the early 1960s all voting impediments were removed. Even just 40 plus years ago, giving more equality to blacks caused many years of blacklash, rioting, murder, and continuation of deeply rooted prejudices.

How times have changed. African-Americans will view themselves differently, with more pride than ever, and they will have a world full of company. The dreams of equality of peoples have been realized. In a much repeated time of economic crisis, the inauguration of America's first black president is worth the traditional elaborate pomp and circumstance that surrounds this momentous political and societal shift in attitude. It's such a positive hopeful happening in a time when too much hope has been spent and not saved for the future.

Related: The election that made the world smile

Friday, January 16, 2009

Amazing Classical Guitar Kid Sungha Jung

In the clip below Sungha Jung plays "Alone Again Naturally", the 1972 Gilbert O'Sullivan hit. He looked anywhere from 6-10 years old at that time (he is currently 12). He has a broad repetoire of songs on his YouTube channel, plenty of classic pop standards, and some classic guitar pieces such as Pachelbel's Canon in D. That one is worth your time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Surgery Checklists Could Save Lives: "Did Anyone Remember to Stitch the Patient Back Up?"

In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly. - Mark Sanborn

That quote fits this story. An international study showed that "surgical staff can dramatically curb the amount of harm they inadvertently do to patients simply by working through checklists before, during and after operations."

Incredibly, by using a checklists, like those used by airline pilots, over a third of serious complications as well as deaths, could be avoided.

The rate of serious complications -- from cardiac arrest to acute kidney failure and septic shock -- dropped to 7% of operations from 11%, a reduction of more than a third. The fatality rate fell by almost half, to .8% of surgeries, or 31 deaths.

That is kinda nice to know, especially if you're worried about whether or not they took out the bad kidney and not the good one, or when you wake up, and hear one of the staff say, "now where did I leave my forceps?"

Dr. Bryce Taylor, chief surgeon at Toronto's University Health Network, said that there was a reluctance to implement the checklists, as there was a "surgeons are Gods" mentality, similar to the attitude of pilots of older days.

If one of the nurses in the OR is afraid to speak up, then the team is in trouble ... When the junior person could speak up, they discovered they could have a much safer environment.

The surgery checklists costs nothing, and could just be coming to a hospital near you. Out of the 2 million plus surgeries performed in Canada each year, implementing the checklist could prevent over 60,000 serious complications - and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tailings Ponds - A Symbol of Desperation and Kissing Mining Company's Bottom, Line

After decades of green talk governments still let mining companies ruin ponds and lakes, killing life while saving them money. The latest ruckus is going on in Alaska, and the lake is home to trout that feeds First Nations people.

Hundreds of years ago First Nations stocked the pristine lake in the Chilcotin region with fish that have fed generations. Now Taseko Mines Ltd. of Vancouver wants to fill the trout-rich lake with waste from a proposed gold and copper mine. (Telegram Jan. 12)

In 2006 the use of two ponds in this province caused a bit of an uproar but it was too late for Duck Pond which was sacrificed to Aur Resources. Alternatives to using freshwater bodies are artificial tailings ponds. It worked for Louvicourt, Quebec, of which Aur Resources was 30% owner.

The bottom line for business is profit, no problem there. But when it comes to wrecking part of nature, it prompts a few questions about profit. How much profit is not enough profit? Actually, it applies to more than mining companies. The western world makes up about 20% of the world's population yet contributes 80% of the waste. Shouldn't there be more built in environmental responsibility when permitting a business that adds significant amounts of waste to landfills? In South Korea recycling is big, even the plastic straws have to be recycled.

Really, is taking a freshwater pond, that is home to trout, other aquatics, and well for birds, be the best we can expect out of industrial companies, or any business that produces great waste, for that matter? Is that as good as it gets? Sounds like someone is spoiled.

You will hear that not letting ponds to be used as dumps as not being friendly to business, or that it will drive business away. That is the threat that elected officials likely hear from mining officials. It is also printed quite often in major media. In the green age you would think that the old ways of natural destruction was coming to an end, but it appears that government can't seem to take the pacifiers away from some.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

St. John's Unemployment Rate Down Compared to Rest of Country

As of December, 2008, here's how Canada's unemployment levels are looking: (see table of provincial unemployment rates below)

Nationally, there is a .3 % increase in unemployment from November to December. Interestingly, only two provinces did not have higher unemployment rates, New Brunswick, and, Newfoundland and Labrador - NL's rate stayed the same at 13.7 % over the same period. Of the 27 cities on this map across Canada, there were several that had lower unemployment rates from Nov. - Dec. St. John's had the largest decrease in unemployment, from 7.6% in Nov., to 7.2% in Dec.

The only province to have a decrease, New Brunswick, went from 8.7 % - 8.6%.

PEI had a leap in unemployment from 10.7 - 11.8%, the highest provincial unemployment increase in the nation.

Auto industry dependent Windsor maintained a 10.1% over the same two month period.

From Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's prediction, 2009 is not looking good for job stability. The depression in the auto industry could cause many more swells in unemployment, particularly in Ontario. Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis is quoted in December as saying that 1 automotive industry job generates 7.5 indirect jobs, and warns that the staggering impact could usher in a dying process for the city of 218,000.

The public has yet to see what Prime Minister Harper's government will propose regarding an economic stimulus package, but generally speaking Flaherty did say tax cuts would be included, to give consumers more spending money. The economic plan would also have
"measures to free up credit, including for car loans, to put unemployed Canadians to work on infrastructure programs or into job training programs.."

Actually a few nights ago, three economists were interviewed by CBC's Peter Mansbridge. One of them from one of the major banks, possibly RBC, suggested that not only could there be tax cuts, but it could be retroactive. That sure sounded interesting. However, in a search of some major online Canadian media sites Friday, this blogger was unable to find any follow up mention of that reference.

2009 is shaping up to be a particularly interesting year to follow economic indicators like unemployment, since we are in recession. So the numbers are expected to reflect much of the unfolding story. Anyway, for the record as of December, 2008, here's how Canada's unemployment rates looked:

Canada's Unemployment Statistics Dec., 2008 (%)
PlaceNovemberDecemberRate of change
NL13.713.7no change

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Who or What Caused Tim Hortons Drive-thru Problems? Tim's, Customers, Laziness, City Hall, or the Combo?

There's quite a brew-ha-ha this week over coffee traffic snarls. What's the cause and where's the solution? Maybe it's a little from column A, a little from column B. TV reports can't cover every driver but a few did admit to the preference of waiting in the car rather than parking, and walking in. Though it is not always possible to predict how successful a business or franchise will be, a Tim's franchise is probably going to have them lining up morning, noon and night. One can foresee potential problems.It seems everyone has to have a morning jolt.     Click picture to enlarge

The Conception Bay South example of extending the drive-thru lane further away from the main street seems to have solved the vexing accident-causing stressor over there. Any expense for extra land required would not likely take long to recover, after all, it is Tim Hortons. Too bad the extra long drive-thrus were not part of this type of business development policy years before. Restaurants like Tim's will get away with what is legal.

In the meantime, they can do their bit to solve the problem by, for example, limiting the drive-thru to just drinks? It will likely speed things along.

In the long-run, food businesses with drive-thrus will have to do what works for everyone, extend the length of those lanes. It's kind of amazing how people put up with it, waiting patiently for that coffee or breakfast in one rush hour crawl, only to frantically enter another back on the main streets. Either there is something addictive about the coffee, or the daily communal, single-file gathering itself, is perhaps a comfort before facing the reality of the day.

As consumers we are part of the problem and solution.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Online Polls Need more Options

Sometimes just a Yes or No answer is not enough. Take # 1, a recent Globe poll which had just the first two options - a third one should have been added:

1. Do you believe we will see lasting peace in the Middle East in your lifetime?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Ha ha, good one
2. The question you love to hear: Are you ready for Christmas?
  • Yes
  • No
  • The experience is truly horrific and you can never be prepared for the hysterical mania that is the unfortunate shopping hell that people have been socialized into
3. Do you think O.J. Simpson’s 1994 acquittal in the slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman factored into a judge’s decision Friday to sentence Simpson to 33-years in prison for a 2007 hotel armed robbery?
  • Yes
  • No
  • I don't give a flying f@#%
  • You're wasting space with such an over-hyped media "story" that is sickening to hear about yet again and again
  • Wow, your paper never ceases to amaze me with useless poll questions
4. Did you watch the Calgary Stampeders win the Grey Cup over the Montreal Alouettes Sunday?
  • Yes
  • No
  • With the exception of baseball, I cannot think of a greater waste of time than watching such a boring, stupid game where players use their heads as battering rams and end up with brain damage. I would rather spend four hours in solitary confinement at Dorchester, having to listen to Celine Dion .. yes, even torture is better
5. Do you think Michael Ignatieff can lead the Liberals to victory in the next election?
  • Yes
  • No
  • At this point, no one wants to think of another election. Next question
  • Try all you wish but even a cloned Elvis heading up the liberals couldn't create much of a buzz right now

Friday, January 02, 2009

Falling Prices may mean Expired Products

Many items at drug stores are health related, a great reason to take a look at the expiry date. We all know that products are marked up to the clouds and it's a bit of relief to see four or five bucks off the regular price. There are reasons for that happening. It could be that there are too many of that particular item left, taking up space for newer products, or it could be a promotion in a flyer to attract customers, or it could be that the item is close to expiring or has already. The latter has been noticed on a number of health products. On one item, the price was about $5 cheaper than usual, and that was attention-getting, but the expiry date showed that the product should have been taken off the shelves two months ago.

This is not difficult to do. If a product database tracking system records a field for expiry date, a programmed alert can be printed every day indicating which products have expired on that very date, and management can direct employees to remove the products.

Check the date, the good deal could turn out to be a raw deal.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

To visitors of this blog, and thank you kindly for dropping by over the past few years. Any resolutions? For this blogger it's going to be getting healthier, well, hopefully. Wishing a healthy, safe and happy one for you too.