Showing posts with label Canada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canada. Show all posts

December 27, 2009

More Evidence that Franklin's Men had Lead Poisoning.

It has been speculated that the Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin in 1845 came to grief partly through heavy reliance on lead-contaminated canned food, canning being a fairly new technology of food preservation at the time.

New tests of soup cans probably identical to those on Franklin's ships showed lead levels "off the scale."

My study is cold this morning, and it feels colder when I think of the song "Lord Franklin."
They sailed West and they sailed East
Their ship on oceans of ice did freeze
Only the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one that ever came through.
Michaél O'Domhnaill and Kevin Burke have the definitive version (YouTube). (Hat tip to Mirabilis.)

December 16, 2009

A Severe Gut Reaction

A culinary adventures backfires on French sailors in the Arctic. (Doesn't that sound like an early 19th-century sentence?)

If you go into Le Club Chasse et Pêche and they are serving urs, order it well-done.

(Tip of the toque to Cat Urbigkit.)

November 14, 2009

A Snowy Day for Fidgets

Downtown Montreal from Mount Royal's belvedere.

It's snowing here in the Wet Mountains, a wet, soaking snow that is melting in. This would be a good "desk day," especially as I am only partway through sorting out everything on my desk--the ten days' worth of mail, the receipts and notes, etc. from the conference, the new books for reading and/or review.

One review must be completed today, or I will hate myself.

But I am fidgety.  M. and I spent parts of six days on trains, four days in Montreal, one day in Chicago, an afternoon in Albany, and an evening in Schenectady. It was wearing.

(Note: we rode six different Amtrak trains, and all were on time. Someone is doing something right. If you have a layover at Schenectady, refuel at Katie O'Byrne's, hang out on Jay Street.)

On the Adirondack, traveling through upstate New York along Lake Champlain, I would see some little dirt road winding off into the swampy woods, and I wanted to be off the train and walking along it with one of the dogs.

The birds are in hiding too. All that I have seen this morning are one robin and one Steller's jay--a pity, since it is Day 1 of one of our Project Feeder Watch counts. (We are not the only ones happy that PFW has started up again.) Yesterday we saw nine American goldfinches at once.

Other miscellaneous travel observations from the big world:

Traveling east from Colorado, I notice black.

A century ago, two factors favored black clothing in the city:
  •     Lots of coal soot in the air
  •     A lack of washing machines

Now it is just about attitude.  I am refined and/or serious, don't mess with me. Not asceticism.  Urban grime might be an issue, but it cannot be the issue.

In Montreal, where sports team-themed clothing was not as common downtown as in Chicago (although it exists), black seemed almost mandatory.

I probably stood out for wearing one of about four khaki trench coats that I spotted.

Downtown Chicago is noisier than Montreal. For one thing, it has the elevated trains. For another, there always seems to be large construction projects underway, whereas I saw none in Montreal, just street repairs.

People walk faster in Chicago too. But my candidate for a fast-walking city, believe it or not, is Dublin, based on earlier visits there.

May 17, 2008

Polygamy -- It's Everywhere!

The Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints are just up the road, apparently. Much excitement in the southern Colorado news media.

And in the Black Hills.

You could organize your summer vacation around these people: Start in Texas before it gets too hot, then hit Colorado City, Utah, on to Colorado (Mancos, Westcliffe) and the Black Hills, and finish at Bountiful, British Columbia.

Better hurry, though. The recent California court decision permitting same-sex marriage has some legal scholars saying, "Why not polygamy too?"

Sure, run human society like a herd of elk. It works for elk.

But young bull elk get a shot at dethroning the herd bull. Male teens from these polygamist colonies often end up homeless, panhandling on street corners.

November 25, 2007

The Bear in Your Garbage Can/Garage/Playing Field

Focusing on the Canadian resort community of Whistler, BC, a New York Times piece discusses bear-human conflicts.

With less bear-hunting and more people wanting to living the woods, "user conflicts" are rising.

At the turn of the last century, if people felt the call of the wild, they’d take the train perhaps to Banff, where they’d soak in a hot spring and never venture much beyond the front canopy of the Banff Springs Hotel. Now remote canyons and mountain meadows are thick with residential and recreational use. In Whistler, even the paint-ball games for kids take place on a field that happens to be in the middle of a flood plain. As soon as the air-horn starts the competition, bears come out of the nearby woods with their great, lumbering, hip-swaying strides to graze the paint balls with a bovine indifference to the gleeful splattered children running this way and that.

It's a thoughtful piece and worth reading for going beyond the cliches.

December 30, 2006

"Never Forget"

Two enigmatic grafitti from Granville Island. Their proxmity to the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design makes me wonder if art students are responsible.

Is this an obscure We(s)t Coast response to the Quebec license plate with its promise to remember?

December 29, 2006

Politics and hunting news

Two items that are hard to put under one heading:

First, in the United Kingdom, the Countryside Alliance triumphs de facto civil disobedieance as record numbers of riders turn out for Boxing Day (Dec. 26) foxhunts.

More than just a hunting group, the Alliance claims "through campaigning, lobbying, publicity and education [to] influence legislation and public policy that impacts on the countryside, rural people and their activities."

The political focus in the UK, however, has been on riding to hounds (hunting), as opposed to going out with bow, gun, and maybe a dog or two, depending on the game to be sought, which they would call "shooting."

To me, however, that term implies that one will find something to shoot, and the fact is that one does not do so every time. To borrow a term from Steve Bodio, some hunts are just "armed walks."

Patrick Burns explains more about what is happening in Britain.

Meanwhile, here in coastal British Columbia where I am blogging, the hunting news involves members of Indian tribes claiming that old treaties permit them to hunt deer at night--what most people call "jacklighting," a practice that is illegal almost everywhere.

The Supreme Court of Canada has announced a decision in the Natives' favor, and now the editorials are appearing--editorials that attack the practice not in the name of fairness to other huntings, not in the interest of wildlife, but taking the "safety" angle.

"In today's changed world, it is silly to allow hunters wielding guns in the woods in the dark. Even the two natives were unable to distinguish between a decoy and a deer," editorialised The Province newspaper, a reference to the original arrest that precipitated the legal case.

Pity the poor game warden who sees a spotlight or hears shots fired at night and has to make a judgment whether the users are treaty-protected Indians to be left alone or somebody else to be investigated.

December 28, 2006

On the ferry road in BC

M. and I have been away from Internet access for a few days, riding ferries and staying with some friends in British Columbia's southern Gulf Islands.

Here is a shot from Granville Island in Vancouver, which technically is not an island at all, but a sandbar that was built up with added spoil from dredging operations, and became an industrial area. Now it is an entertainment and arts district.
Looking towards English Bay from Granville Island

British Columbians have been having some extreme weather lately.

British Columbia took a beating from the weather this year, getting everything from bitter cold to destructive winds, and a record dry summer followed by a wet fall when the rain seemed endless.

But here is what a clear day looks like:

View towards mainland from Saturna Island.

It does not show in this wide view, but one could see the sun shining on the mountains across the strait, making for a pleasant day skiing at Grouse Mountain and such places.

December 17, 2006

Bureaucrats and bear spray

Double-checking the Canadian customs regulations to see how much wine we could bring over the border, I came across this priceless paragraph:

Mace or pepper spray that is used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person is considered a prohibited weapon. You cannot import it into Canada. Aerosol or similar dispensers that contain substances capable of repelling or subduing animals are not considered weapons if the label of the container specifically indicates that they are for use against animals.

Um, isn't capsaicin capsaicin? I notice that the spray in the easy-to-reach side pocket of my hiking pack says "for law enforcement use only," which is nonsense, since I bought it through a retail seller, and I am not a cop. If it had a picture of a grizzly bear rampant on the can, it would then be OK?

Maybe I could cut a picture of a bear out of Outdoor Life and glue it on the can.

Bureaucratic idiocy knows no boundaries. I think I will take my chances. It's in a hiking pack full of outdoor gear, and if anyone asks, it's "bear spray." Which it is.

Oh, and apparently 1.5 liters of wine per adult is the limit--as long as you don't plan to let a Canadian citizen drink it, thus depriving the government of tax revenue. So no gift-wrapping the good stuff from Black Mesa Winery.

April 07, 2005

Buffalo dreams

The "Buffalo Commons" idea put forth in the 1980s lives on: a lightly populated area of the High Plains whose economy, at least partly, would revolve around bison.

The Buffalo Commons will be a restored and reconnected area from Mexico to Canada, where we humans learn to work together across borders that were artificial in the first place. The Buffalo Commons means the day when the fences come down. The buffalo will migrate freely across a restored sea of grass, like wild salmon flow from the rivers to the oceans and back. Settled areas can --like they do in Kenya-- fence the animals out, not fence them in.

That's the dream.