Friday, September 30, 2011

Quote for the day

The Inuit word meaning 'to make poetry' is the same as the word for 'to breathe,' and both derive from the word for 'the soul.'

-- Jonathan A. Vance, A History of Canadian Culture

Thursday, September 29, 2011

for Michaelmas

Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, honours the greatest of all the archangels, the principal angelic warrior, who defeated Lucifer in the war in heaven. In some traditions this day is the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, including Gabriel, the messenger and Raphael, the healer. Michael is protector against the dark of night, administrator of cosmic intelligence, guardian of souls.

Saint Michael, protect us.
Image source here.

Today also is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, first of the High Holy 'Days of Awe,' representing the creation of the world. The Day of Judgment and remembrance, it begins the time of our repentance, to be sealed on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, holiest day of the year. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life and sealed to live.
Image source here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Canada's reputation #1

Canada has best reputation in the world

Vancouver Sun: Canada has the best reputation in the world, says a study measuring public perceptions of 50 countries around the world... The Reputation Institute study measures the trust, esteem, admiration and good feelings the public holds towards 50 countries, as well as perceptions of peoples' quality of life, safety and attention to the environment.

Results from 42,000 respondents worldwide ranked Sweden next, followed by Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand... The countries scored high for their steady democracies, high economic output per capita, focus on active lifestyles, well developed political systems and perceived neutrality to international political upheavals.
Image source here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Poem for the day

for Terence Brown
Seeing the bags of meal passed hand to hand
In close-up by the aid workers, and soldiers
Firing over the mob, I was braced again

With a grip on two sack corners,
Two packed wads of grain I'd worked to lugs
To give me purchase, ready for the heave --

The eye-to-eye, one-two, one-two upswing
On to the trailer, then the stoop and drag and drain
Of the next lift. Nothing surpassed

That quick unburdening, backbreak's truest payback;
A letting go which will not come again.
Or it will once. And for all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Toward the Equinox

Spring and Fall
to a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed;
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Books are our friends VI

Pie de Amigo (Foot of Friend) by Miler Lagos: 'An arc of stacked architecture books with one pencil placed in the leaves of each book that, if removed, would cause the whole piece to tumble.'

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Feathers in amber: birds and dinosaurs

Amber cache reveals feathered dinosaurs, birds shared habitat

The Canadian Press: An ancient deposit of amber from southern Alberta has revealed that birds with feathers not that different from their modern descendants shared habitat with dinosaurs still sporting the most primitive of plumages.

'We've got two ends of the evolutionary-developmental model co-occuring,' said University of Alberta paleontolgist Ryan McKellar, co-author of a paper on the Medicine Hat amber deposit in the journal Science... The amber deposit is from the last days of the dinosaurs [the Cretaceous period] between 78 and 79 million years ago.

Scientists have long known that some dinosaurs had simple feathers. Most of the evidence for that comes from fossils discovered in China. But those proto-feathers have been crushed into a thin film by the weight of millennia. In Alberta, however, the tiny filaments from both dinosaur and bird feathers... are so well-preserved that researchers can even guess what colour they were.

More images here:
Wired Science: 'These simple feathers clearly had nothing to do with flight, and probably had everything to do with thermal regulation. They were essentially a feather homologue of fur,' said paleontologist Alex Wolfe of the University of Alberta, a co-author of the new study.
Image source here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Coral reefs signal mass extinction

Coral reefs 'will be gone by end of the century'
They will be the first entire ecosystem to be destroyed by human activity, says top UN scientist

The Independent: Professor Peter Sale studied the Great Barrier Reef for 20 years at the University of Sydney. He currently leads a team at the United Nations University for Water, Environment and Health.

The predicted decline is mainly down to climate change and ocean acidification. [Sale's] book, Our Dying Planet... contains further alarming predictions, such as the prospect that 'we risk having no reefs that resemble those of today in as little as 30 or 40 more years...'

Coral reefs... contain a quarter of all marine species, despite covering only 0.1 per cent of the world's oceans by area, and are more diverse than the rainforests... About 180 million people live within 100km of a reef, of which some 275 million are likely to depend on the reef ecosystems for nutrition or livelihood. Fringing reefs can also help to protect low-lying islands and coastal regions from extreme weather, absorbing waves before they reach vulnerable populations.

Carbon emissions generated by human activity, especially our heavy use of fossil fuels, are the biggest cause of the anticipated rapid decline... Climate change increases ocean surface temperatures... and leads to coral bleaching, where the photosynthesising algae on which the reef-building creatures depend for energy disappear. Deprived of these for even a few weeks, the corals die. On top of this comes ocean acidification. Roughly one-third of the extra carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere is absorbed through the ocean surface... The imbalance created makes it harder for reef organisms to retrieve the minerals needed to build their carbonaceous skeletons...

If past mass extinctions are anything to go by... reef disappearance has tended to precede wider mass extinction events... 'The losses of species that are occurring now are in every way equivalent to the mass extinctions of the past,' Professor Sale says... About 20 per cent of global coral reefs have already been lost in the past few decades... 'If we can keep CO2 concentrations below 450 parts per million we could be able to save something resembling coral reefs.'... The current atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is about 390 parts per million, but few experts believe it will remain below 500 for long.
Image: Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the planet's largest reef system and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but it may not survive the century. Source here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Taken for a pipeline ride

Overheard: Asia's View of Alberta, Tar Sands and Pipelines
If this insider is right, Gateway is purely a ploy and Canadians are rubes.

Michael Byers, The As I listen in, I hear from a consultant a startling analysis of what Asia really thinks... 'The Gulf of Mexico coast is the only place in the world with any significant capacity for handling bitumen... If the Asians buy any bitumen from Canada, they'll insist on a very steep discount, because they'll have to ship it to the Gulf of Mexico too.'... He chuckles. 'But we don't tell the Canadians this straight-out.'...

'But what about the Northern Gateway,' I ask,... the proposed 1,200-kilometre-long twin pipelines between Fort McMurray, Alberta, and Kitimat, B.C. 'Enbridge is a major player. Surely they would realize that there's no market in Asia?'

'Enbridge is a pipeline company, not an oil company,' he replies... 'They've promised to find a market, and nothing more. They don't care if it's at a discount.'... 'If the Canadians were smart, they'd build the capacity to refine all their bitumen at source, so as to ship a much more valuable product to Asia and elsewhere.'...

'But surely Northern Gateway isn't just about Canadian oil companies being taken for a ride? I thought that Northern Gateway was designed, at least in part, to put pressure on the U.S. State Department to approve Keystone XL.'... a proposed 3,190 kilometre-long pipeline that would transport bitumen from Fort McMurray direct to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast...

'You're absolutely right,' the consultant nods. 'And not just in part. Gateway is all about putting pressure on the State Department.'

'But the people at the State Department aren't stupid,' I protest. 'Surely they can see right through this?' 'Don't count on it,' he laughs derisively. 'They're focused on the Middle East. They don't understand the Asian energy market. They really don't.' He leans over and whispers: 'And even if they did realize that Gateway is an empty threat, they'd still approve Keystone XL, eventually. No matter what the EPA says, the State Department isn't about to depart from its practice of approving pipelines from Canada. It'll just spin out the decision as long as it can, hoping the project dies for other reasons.'
Image: tar sand; source here.