Sunday, January 28, 2007

Only skin deep?

Nobody would ever call me a slave to the cosmetics industry. I just can't be bothered to spend the time doing my makeup and putting goo in my hair - especially since I work mostly from home.

Also I often have only the vaguest notion of what the various lotions and potions are actually supposed to do (Uh, "antioxidant rescue serum"? "Skin Polishing Enzyme Treatment"? I recognize all the words in these names but still have no idea of the specific purpose of these things).

Maybe it's a good thing I'm not too fussed about them. It turns out that lots of cosmetics contain pthalates - chemicals that have been shown to mess with animals' hormone systems. Scientists aren't sure whether they could affect humans or not - but in rodents they cause reduced fertility, increased risk of breast cancer, cause premature puberty, and have even been related to bahavioural changes.

So wait - the stuff that we wear to make ourselves appear more sexy might interefere with the natural processes that regulate our reproductive system and sexual function?

That's messed up.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A lot of hot air

Apparently the "origin of man" isn't the only "controversial" topic that must not be taught to impressionable young minds these days . A father in Washington managed to prevent his daughter's science class from watching Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Apparently Frosty Hardiman thinks that it's Anti-American because it "blam[es] our nation -- the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet -- for global warming". Well, uh, it doesn't say that the US are the only ones on this planet who are emitting CO2, but it does paint a pretty grim picture of the American approach to the problem so far.

Hardiman managed to get it stopped because teachers have to obtain permission from the school board before they present "controversial" materials in their classes. I can't really imagine denying a teacher permission to show this particular (Oscar-Nominated) documentary.

Perhaps the issue of climate change is still under debate. I don't buy that, but even if I did, there would still be a benefit to showing the video - and discussing it. No kid is going to learn much if they're never allowed to question the status quo. Nevermind that the documentary is full of geography and showcases the beauty of our planet. And it introduces an important political figure in an accessible way.

Could he really, possibly, believe that his kids are probably better off watching stuff like American Idol?!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Meno Mosso

Just want to point y'all in the direction of a new blog that promises to be loadsa fun for anyone with an interest in classical music and/or jazz... and downright educational for those of us who wish we knew more.

Gettin' my Religion...

Stereotyping is a bad idea. Folks, this is not news, but we all do it sometimes.

For example, I've been equating Evangelism with right-wing politics. Let's face it, I've been equating evangelists with right-wing Christian nutbars.

But it turns out that a bunch of evangelists in the U.S. are on the climate change bandwagon. The National Association of Evangelicals is collaborating with the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. Together, they are trying to convince the U.S. administration that they really need to do something about global warming.

It sounds like such a strange combination - and yet Harvard is potentially bringing a powerful segment of US social culture - one which was probably instrumental in Bush's election wins - into the climate change game.

And maybe what we need here is for politicians to get some climate change religion. If we could all just believe that climate change is really happening, that Manhattan could end up under water, and that 50% of species worldwide might die, wouldn't it be obvious that something should be done?

It's time to take global warming to heart, Bush. Don't worry, I know you've already taken Jesus into your heart - but I suspect He'll make room.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Moving Mountains

Apparently it is actually possible to move mountains - or, well, enough of them to have a noticeable effect, anyway.

The Swedish town of Kiruna is located on Kiirunavaara mountain. More to the point, it's above an iron ore min that is the economic driver of the town, supplying most of the local jobs. You might expect a sad story about how the mine will soon clase and the little Arctic town will die, precipiotating the demise of a way of life...

But no! Fear not. There are still 800 million tonnes of crude ore in the ground. While there's no danger of running out of ore to mine just yet, it seems that enough has been taken away that the foundations of the town above it are becoming unstable.

So they've decided to move a big chunk of the town away from the mining area. They picked the new site just this month.

Sounds like a costly endeavour - and it is - on the order of ~4.3 billion US dollars, not including rerouting the railway and roads. To move about half the building in the town by about 4 km. But I guess the income from the mine must be worth it, since it sounds like there aren't too many Kirunians making much of a fuss... or should I say, undermining the mayor's plans...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I spy, with my little dime...

Last week the US issued a warning to US defense contractors about Canadian coins that might contain radio frequency transmitters inside them. The transmitters could presumably be used to track the movements of the people carrying them (no hints about which coins had the transmitters).

It all sounded very odd to me. After all, if the person being spied on was staying in Canada, you'd think they might spend the coin without knowing it - which makes it, er, a little tricky to follow the person who doesn't have it anymore. And if they ended up back to the US - or in any other country, you'd think they would empty their pockets to avoid carrying around the useless coin. So you'd probably be tracking the location of the dresser in their bedroom.

I guess you might get an idea of where these defense contractors live - but that's about it. I don't think you'd be guaranteed to find out anything about where they go day-to-day over the long term.

Well - lately, the US has retracted their claim about the transmitters. There seems to be no statement affirming that the transmitters weren't there. It's all so bizarre. Perhaps the Americans were just mystified by our two-toned currency?

I would like to think someone was doing some nifty study in Canada about where our currency goes while it's in circulation: "The Wonderful Journeys of Fred the Quarter or Terry the Toonie" sort of thing.

Now that would be cool.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


...does anyone aside from me find it funny that the Globe and Mail's Report on Business section abbreviates to "ROB"?

But anyway, the ROB - and the front page of the main section actually, today is all about Apple's new "Phone". Computer. TV. Blackberry. Whatever it is, I have to say it looks pretty good. Despite trying very hard to resist the pull of "cool" that Apple's been exerting with all its nifty i-products, i-have to admit that this little gizmo is pretty smart.

There is no need for a number pad, since everything is done using a touch screen, so its entire face can be used to display video. It can tell whether you're holding it in "portrait" or "landscape" orientation and adjust the picture automatically. If you're listening to music and someone calls, it tuns down the volume automatically. It comes with either a 4 G or 8 G hard drive, and is equipped with a web browser, and built-in wireless.

And it even knows when you're bringing it close to your head so that you don't accidentally use the touch-screen with your earlobe.

'Course, at the moment it's still $500 USD which is way too much for me to spend on something that basically gathers a bunch of servicesI already have into one place. And seriously, the last thing I need is to be able to check my email more often.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

With this dress...

This weekend I've been sorting photos from our wedding. And I have to say, damn, we all looked fine! I sort of laugh when I think back to me choosing my wedding dress. I went to the bridal salons surrounded by a gaggle of girls - which was way too much fun. I stared at photo after photo of weddng dresses on the internet. I logged on to bridal message boards. In short, something quite odd happened to me - I became obsessed with "the dress".

But I also agonized over the whole concept - I was so conflicted about wanting a traditional white dress - and about spending so much money on something that I would only be wearing for a day. I was pretty happy when I found a floor sample that fit me, looked great - and was 70% off to boot. It assuaged my guilt about "buying in" to the whole fancy gown deal.

Yesterday I took it to The Bride's Project, whose tag line is "Finding a cost-conscious option for brides, while helping children with cancer". Basically, people (and some salons) donate their wedding dresses, which are then resold to brides who don't mind wearing something that's been used. Or not. Some of the dresses are new... All of the dresses are a steal of a deal.

And all the proceeds go to support Camp Quality, which helps kids affected by cancer go camping, or else to the Canadian Cancer Society or the Breast Cancer Foundation. So the whole thing is totally awesome.

My only regret... has nothing to do with giving away the dress. I loved it, but I do not feel sad that it's gone. Nope, my only regret is that I didn't know about the Bride's Project in time to go shopping there in the first place.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Canadians are HOT

Apparently the environment has topped Canadians' list of things to be concerned about. They've decided that it's more important than health care or the war in Afghansitan.

I'm slightly flabbergasted. I always have the feeling that we sort of care... when we have a moment and only if it doesn't cost us anything. But whatever, I hope it lasts long enough that the government moves on it.

Yesterday's cabinet shuffle - putting John Baird in charge of the environment portfolio - appeared to send a message that Harper is listening. But I'm a little nervous that this Canadian concern is only going to last as long as the abnormal weather. If it actually snows next month, will we all forget how wierded out we are by the current warm temperatures?

Plus - there has been talk of an upcoming election - which could garner big promises from all the parties - or could just put everything on hold once again while all the politicians wander around their ridings trying to make nice. Maybe wI should give us more credit, but I worry that by the time an election is over, the collective Canadian consciousness will be focussed on something entirely different.

Could it be?!

I finally have a defense date. For my doctoral dissertation. Yep, in five weeks minus a day I'll be sweating it out in front of my committee trying desperately to answer their questions. And be articulate at the same time.

I'm partly exhilarated and partly terrified

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Paid announcement...

We spent yesterday afternoon at the movies. It felt like celebrating the New Year by embracing advertising. Lovely.The theatre feels like an amusement part, with flashing lights, overpriced candy and popcorn, and even a bar (after all, who wouldn't want to relax after seeing a movie by having a drink in a loud, tacky, teenage-filled hallway, right by the lineup for the bathrooms).

Worse, the movie started a fulll 25 minutes after the advertized time. We were inundated with ads for cars, perfume, and video game consoles. Normally I don't mind the previews, but really, that's just another ad - and I was sick of waiting for the film I paid for to start.

Supid theatre - I paid $12 to see a movie. Not the commercials. It's completely scandalous that they can get away with showing them at all.