Wednesday, December 14, 2005

One reason why I am vegetarian

There are lots of reasons why people turn to vegetarianism. I came to it from an environmental perspective, and the first thing I gave up was seafood. There are lots of problems with commercial fishing, one of which is the bycatch - Oceana Network :: Report Reveals U.S. Fisheries' Waste.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Green Party of Canada - Sign the Petition

Once again a consortium of Canadian broadcasters is excluding the Green Party from the leaders debate in the run up to the 2006 federal election. This is not right. Why should a party that is fielding a candidate in every riding and captured over 3% of the votes in the 2004 election not be heard? How can they take second place to a party that only has candidates in one province?

For some unknown reason, the consortium keeps changing the criteria they use to determine who gets this valuable air time. The Green Party suggests a simple formula that is based on a federally accepted criterion. Bill C-24 has created public funding for any party that gains over 2% of the vote.

"Any party that achieves over 2 per cent of the vote is receiving federal money. Based on this formula, the Green Party receives over $1 million dollars per year. Why is it that taxpayers can finance a political party, but are not able to see or hear them in the leaders’ debate? "

Read the background and the Green Party argument. Then, if you agree that Jim Harris should be included in this important broadcast, sign the Green Party petition and tell your friends to do the same.

This whole debate would of course take on a different complexion if our representatives were elected by proportional representation. The Green party would have 13 MP's sitting in Ottawa, and that would dismiss the arguments that only parties with sitting members should take part in the televised debate.

However you plan to vote in January, if your care about democracy in Canada, sign the petition now.

Related blogs and posts:
Dufferin Caledon Greens
CALL TO ACTION: Green Party not in Debate

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ArtLex Art Dictionary

ArtLex Art Dictionary looks like a useful source of information.

Art Dictionary for artists, collectors, students and educators in art production, criticism, history, aesthetics, and education.

You'll find definitions for more than 3,600 terms used in discussing art / visual culture, along with thousands of supporting images, pronunciation notes, great quotations and cross-references.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Interpreting Contemporary Art

ACCESS ART: Interpreting Contemporary Art

A panel discussion which will explore approaches to and difficulties involved in appreciating contemporary visual art.

Windsor Lecture Theatre - Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
1723 Hollis Street - Bedford Row Entrance, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Thursday, October 27 - 7pm.

Organised by Visual Arts Nova Scotia. More details currently on their hompage.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Quoting Raúl Acero

From Raúl Acero, in his book Making Ceramic Sculpture:

I think all human beings are born with the ability and desire to make art. Slowly, over time, and due to our education, we lose those abilities and replace them with insecurities about making and understanding art.
I can relate to that. I have always steered clear of being labelled 'artist', largely because of the language that often surrounds art.

Raúl also helps me understand the essence of abstract art:
... this wall sculpture can be considered pure abstract or nonrepresentational art. It relies on the relationship between parts to achieve grace and beauty. Sometimes leaving out recognizable elements, such as birds or flowers, can be liberating. By using texture, color, and spacial relationships, we can invoke the same kind of feelings and responses that representational objects do, but in a more mysterious and deep manner. The viewer must search for things in the sculpture, instead of being presented with them right away.
This is the type of art I want to explore further. I don't think I will ever be able to do representational art. The question is, can one master abtract without those skills?

Comments on this topic, as always, are welcome.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Elias Wakan - geometric sculpture in wood

Elias's work is a fine blend of aesthetics, mathematics and craftsmanship. Assembling complex shapes from simple pieces of wood, each carefully cut, Elias strives to 'show how complexity derives from simplicity.'

One can get a first impression of his work from this view of Drumbeg House Gallery. If you have time for a long read, Elias answers the question 'How Do You Make These'? There is obviously a fair bit of trial and error, as detailed in Moebius Mistake, and 'How Long Did It Take?' tells the story of his sculpture called Triumph.

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Coventry Canal Art Trail

As a canal enthusiast I was delighted to come across the Coventry Canal Art Trail while searching the web for sculpture related sites.

This 5 1/2 mile canal provides a route from the Oxford canal into the heart of the city. The map shows the 26 sites of the artworks which comprises 39 works by 31 different artists. Five categories of work were commissioned: community art, entry markers, gateways, heritage markers and sculptural seating.

If I had to choose three favorites, I think they would be:

Three very distinct styles. Three very striking works of art that can be enjoyed by the general public.

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Sculpture month on Acres Wild

I have recently developed an interest in sculpture. I want to spend more time exploring woodturning as a sculptural medium. This desire has already manifested itself in Triplets I.

So this month I plan to explore the web seeking out examples and information about sculpture and sculptors. I will post my findings here at Acres Wild.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What's good about living in Canada?

Let me see now.

It's not January or February.

It's not the fine upstanding politicians.

As he so often does, Seth Godin has the answer. It's Robertson screws.

These are so damn good they must be just about the best thing about Canada.

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sounds of summer

As I stepped out of the workshop a few nights ago I heard a moth battering itself against a light. The spring peepers were going at it, though not as deafeningly as a month ago. But the real treat was the snipe making its strange winnowing sounds from high over head. Last year we had no snipe and really missed its aerial performances, so this years return was very pleasing.

The next morning I was looking out the bedroom window when something 'whooshed' by the open window. I was just in time to see a raptor chasing one of the pigeons that feed here. It made a brave attempt to get away, but got caught crossing the field, at which point the two birds seemed to merge into one and fly off into the woods. I say 'raptor' because I really couldn't identify the attacker, though my best bet is that it was a sharp shinned hawk.

There was a small pile of downy feathers on the lawn, so it must have made a first strike there. A little later I noticed a couple of barn swallows picking up the feathers, presumably to line their nest.

This year has seen a huge increase in the number of squirrels and snow-show hares. The bunnies seem exceptionally laid back and come right up to the house. One evening I saw three sat in our drive way, and once disturbed one right up on our verandah.

On the other hand, ruby-throated humming bird numbers seem to be low this year. Usually they are battling over the feeders and we have to put up four feeders to try and keep them satisfied. This year two feeders seems sufficient, and I haven't seen a single fight. The weather this year has been cold and wet, so maybe they gave up on their migration and nested further south.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

"They" should do something about it.

Boating blogger (say that quickly ten times over) Sue, of Retirement with No Problem, draws my attention to some fairly typical bureaucratic nonsense in her post " River Rubbish - What a farce! "

It seems like the town council (someplace in England that I never heard of), the district council and the Environment Agency are passing the buck when it comes to clearing some junk out of the local river. You know it is getting petty when they start involving lawyers, when they should in fact be sitting around a table together and figuring out how they could work together to solve a problem for the citizens and taxpayers that pay their wages.

Of course, the chances of that happening are pretty remote. So maybe the local citizenry needs to stop complaining that ' "they" should do something about it ', roll their sleeves up and clear their river up themselves. Done properly, and with the support of the media, they might even be able to use name and shame tactics to get someone in authority to take responsibility for this river.

There are of course bigger issues at play. Like why do some morons feel that it is ok to dump stuff in the river in the first place?

Most importantly, why are various levels of government, and the organisations within them, allowed to pass the buck like this?

Maybe because the rest of us let them? Maybe because we let them forget who they work for, and who pays their wages?

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Thermachromic postage stamps

I got a letter from the UK in this morning's post. One of the postage stamps bore the instructions "RUB FEZZES WITH YOUR FINGER TO FIND PYRAMID". I just had to find out more.

According to the Royal Mail, this is one in a long line of trick stamps.

It uses body temperature thermachromic ink which becomes transparent when heated to body temperature.

See more by bike

It was such a nice day yesterday that I could no longer resist the temptation to fetch my bike out of the basement and cycle to the village on errands. It's about 7km each way, and the rolling hills make for a good workout.

Apart from the exercise, one thing I like about travelling by bike is that you get to see a lot of things that would be missed by car. First thing I noticed was the four inch diameter holes that had been drilled in the road surface along the way. I'm not sure why, but maybe it is a sign that this section of the Sunrise Trail is finally going to be rebuilt. It will certainly make for a nicer and safer ride, whether by car or bike.

Birdsong and the sound of other creatures near the road go completely unnoticed when I take the car. And on a bicycle it is very easy to stop and watch the wildlife, like the woodpecker that was searching for bugs on a tree.

On the way back I noticed an odd feature on the telephone wires. I guess my interest in that will need some explaining. Well, our community has been trying to bring broadband internet access to our area. One option of course is DSL, but I was just reading that it will not work if there is a loading coil in the circuit, and I was wondering if that was what this device was. So far I have not been able to find any pictures on the web to show me what load coils may be mounted in on the power poles.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Tannahill Weavers tour Canada

Last night I had the good fortune to see the Tannahill Weavers live at the deCoste Center in Pictou, Nova Scotia. This band has been bringing traditional Scottish music to audiences around the world for several decades.

I was a little concerned when Colin Melville came on stage with bagpipes, and more so when he stepped up to a pair of microphones as I have always been of the opinion that the last thing the bagpipes need is amplification. But I really shouldn't have worried since Colin is an extremeley talented musician who makes beautiful music on this much maligned instrument. Colin also plays whistles, including one huge beast the likes of which I had never seen before, a low whistle which is an octave lower than normal pipes.

The Tannahill Weavers take their name from Robert Tannahill, a weaver and poet from the band's original home town of Paisley.

Roy Gullane is the lead vocalist, guitarist and story-teller. On flute, bodhran and whistles, Phil Smillie and John Martin on fiddle. Les Wilson played bouzouki, guitar and keyboards and sang lead vocals on Lassie wi’ the lintwhite locks. This is a beautiful love song written by Robbie Burns, who according to Roy, had a way with the women and could talk the underpants off any lassie.

My only disappointment was with the audience. Considering the Scottish heritage that Pictou is so proud of, it was disappointing that the audience was so small and so quiet.

The Tannahill Weavers tour of Canada continues this month in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario. They will be back in November at venues in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. If you get the the opportunity to see them, I don't think you will be disappointed. CDs and downloads are available from

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Spring in Canada

Our first real sign of spring came this morning in the form of a red-winged blackbird atop the power pole in our yard. There is still plenty of snow on the ground here in Nova Scotia, but it's edges are receding. The Northumberland Strait is still packed with drift ice, and that sometimes hangs around long enough to delay the start of the lobster fishing season in May.

Out on the shores of Lake Erie, Gerard Pas reported seeing his first red-winged blackbird yesterday. In other blogs, Barend has reported the spring weather in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Further west in Montreal, Barry Welford reports that the St. Lawrence Seaway is open, and wonders if the record length of season it had last year is due to global warming. Out in mid-western Canada, Jeff comments on the dramatic metamorphosis of the changing season.

There are a couple of other creatures I like to watch as a further indicator of the changing season. First is the northern spring peeper. There used to be a website which recorded when it was first heard in various locations, but I am unable to find this today, so if you know this site, do please let me know. The second is the ruby throated hummingbird with one reported sighting yesterday in Virginia.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Blogs are going everywhere these days.

Everest Post 2005 is the journal of Gavin Bate's solo Everest bid in aid of Moving Mountains children's charity. He leaves the UK on 28 March and should be at the summit by 28 May.

In case you have trouble finding the RSS feed for this site, it is :

Canal tunnels

Of all the RSS feeds that I watch daily, the one I look forward to the most is from the blog Retirement with No Problem. Sue and her hubby are retired and live aboard a narrow boat on the English canal system.

It seems like Sue doesn't much like going through tunnels, especially if they are inhabited by bats. But today she met her worse fears head on ( Blisworth Tunnel and on to Northampton) and made it through to the other side. I like bats, and even encourage them to live near us to help keep mosquitoes under control, but I think the decision to make Greywell Tunnel a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is a bit extreme. Blisworth tunnel would seem to prove that bats and boats can co-exist. But of all the tunnels I have been through, I don't recall an encounter with a bat. About the worst thing that happens in a tunnel is the downpour of water as you pass under a ventilation shaft.

The first major canal tunnel I went through was Harecastle on the Trent and Mersey Canal. It was a school trip and my first introduction to boating on canals, though I had by that time worked on a few canal restoration projects. It may have been in Harecastle that we kept the boogie man at bay by singing "Underground, overgound, Wombling free".

A few years later I was part of an expedition that walked into the eastern end of Sapperton Tunnel. At that time the canal was drained, but we still needed waders to get into the tunnel and we took a small inflatable with us just in case. I'm glad to see that the Canal trust now run boat trips into this section of the tunnel when there is sufficient water.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

So you think hydroelectric is green fuel?

It turns out that hydroelectric power is not so green as it might seem. The destruction and fragmentation of habitat is fairly obvious, but it seems that hydro dams are creators of methane, a gas whose greenhouse effect is 21 times more significant than carbon dioxide. The gas is created by the decay of plant matter under water. This is not just a problem when the dam is first flooded, but each year as the water levels rise and fall new plants grow and die.

Read the full article from New Scientist:
Hydroelectric power's dirty secret revealed

Friday, February 04, 2005

Telemarketing Rant

Does your phone ever ring and there is no one there? And *69 doesn't work? It happens here very often, often daily for a week or more. I have long suspected that this is some sort of auto-dialling from a telemarketing call center, and yesterday my theory was confirmed.

I stop what I am doing, set down my tools, switch off the machines that are running and rush to the office to pick up the phone. "Hello" I say. No answer. "Hello.... Hello", then just as I was about to hang up, an automated recording starts. "This is a telemarketing call from *** Book Club. All of our representatives are busy. We will call you back again." Well, I don't remember their exact words, but that was the gist of it.

So in other words, they don't give a rat's ass how much inconvenience they cause me, as long as they don't have to have a telemarketer waiting for a few seconds for the phone to ring and someone to answer. This is done using a Predictive Dialer. What's more there is no one for me to rant to about how I don't appreciate being disturbed by these calls. I always feel a lot better after I have given one of these people a hard time. It would be really nice if I could get them to quit their low-life job, then the company they work for would have to spend money recruiting and training a new sucker to work for them. Hitting their bottom line is the only way to stop this anti-social form of marketing.

I really like Jerry Seinfelds conversation with a telemarketer. As for this from a telemarketer, all I can say is too bad. You choose to do the job, if you can't hack it, quit and get a real job.

As for this opt-out service by the Canadian Marketing Association, we will see what happens now that I have registered. But I really don't see why I should have to take the initiative to opt-out. Why not an opt-in service? Maybe because no one actually wants to receive these calls?

The CBC offers these Tips for Dealing with Telemarketers.

Over at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission website, I really thought I was onto something good:
"As of October 1st, 2004, the telemarketer must give you a unique registration number which you should write down as proof that your "do not call" request was made. " However, further reading shows that this never came into effect. The document outlining the objection to the suggested changes makes interesting reading:

"The CMA argued that a number of smaller businesses and not-for-profit organizations that rely heavily on telephone solicitation in order to sell products and services or to obtain donations and funding may have to abandon the use of telecommunications for this purpose if forced to implement these new measures." Well, I for one wouldn't loose any sleep over that.

".... the requirement to issue a unique registration number to every customer who makes a DNC request was causing Canadian businesses to incur significant start-up and re-training costs...."
"..the requirement to maintain a live operator, as opposed to an interactive voice mail system, during regular business hours was causing Canadian businesses to incur a huge expense..."

See, it's all about the bottom line, so I will continue my policy of making their lives hell and never-ever buying anything from a telemarketer.

On a more positive note, the CMA does seem to prefer "a coordinated, enforced, national DNC (do not call) list.", but I guess that isn't going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime I guess I will have to continue winding up these time-wasters a little longer.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Tale of Two Kitties

Last November our household cat population suddenly tripled. My wife phoned from work to tell me that she had agreed to take a kitten that needed a home. Trixie would be arriving the next day.

But that very same night there was a big crash against the screen door. Once we got the dogs calmed down and under control, we ventured out to see what was happening. The sound of flapping wings and a growling noise suggested that murder was afoot. Indeed, it didn't take long to find the injured pigeon, and the flash light showed a pair of bright eyes staring out from under a bush. Pat took the pigeion into the house to see how badly it was injured, while I went after the cat. I say cat with hindsight, for at the time it was such a growling, hissing, skinny, stripey monster that it seemed more like a cross between weasel and raccoon, or even perhaps an alien species. It really didn't want to be caught, but when I put a bowl of food down and it came right over and started scoffing like it hadn't eaten in a week, so I scooped it up and secured it in the workshop.

Trixie arrived the next day as arranged. A funny looking kitten with it's white, black and tan fur going every-which-way. She was only four months old but had had a pretty bad life. Her mother had been killed on the road, and Trixie herself had been found in a shed where her siblings had starved to death around her. She had two other temporary homes before settling with us, but for all that she has turned out to be a really sweet and affectionate little cat.

We decided to call the other cat Bunny. She spent the first few days in a crate in my workshop while we tried to find her an owner, but to no avail. Once she had been checked out by the vet we introduced her to Trixie. The pair of them lived together in a bedroom for several weeks while we introduced them gradually to our three dogs and our cat, Ellen. They have formed a very close friendship and are often to be found snuggled up together or grooming one another, though Bunny seems to have taken on more of a mother role, often holding Trixie down while she washes her. Our dogs get on fine with them, and Bunny often tries to rub her head up against one of the dogs. In fact, just the other night, while Trixie was away at the vets for spaying, Bunny started grooming Hannah.

Sadly, the pigeon died the day after Bunny's noisy arrival at our back door.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Drang

Just across the road from my grandmother's house was a narrow footpath sandwiched between the cottage hospital and a residential area. My family always refered to this path as the drang. It was walled on both sides, and high enough to stop one seeing over, unless of course you were a small boy who liked climbing stone walls. There was another drang not too far away from my own home, this time between a cemetery and some houses, with wooden fencing on the side of the houses, and a thick hedge on the other.

I can't recall anyone outside of my own family referring to these paths as a drang, so I have often wondered whether it was a word they made up. I could never find it in a standard English dictionary. So recently I tried searching for a definition on the internet, and was surprised when I found it in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. This was interesting because I have a great great great granduncle who emigrated to Newfoundland, and his son returned to Somerset to live with my great great great grandfather in the 1890's.

Yesterday I finally remembered to stop by the reference library to see what I could find out about this word. The Oxford English Dictionary lists it as a variant of drong, and defines it as a narrow lane or passage. There are written references to it dating back to 1787, all coming from the west country counties of Cornwall, Devonshire, Dorset and Somerset. In 1863 the Dorset Glossary listed drong or drongway, a narrow way between two hedges or walls. Another reference in 1880-88 lists drang and drang-way.

Also in the library I found a copy of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. One reference from 1858, "'The new priest in Conception Bay' , quoted 'the constable passed the drung that led up to his forge and dwelling..". More recently in 1972 - "There are 'drungs' (lanes) and roads shooting off in all directions....." . The online version has some supplementary entries from the 1980's.

All of these references indicate that the word is dialect, and suggest that it is derived from throng or thring, meaning crowded or pressed. Certainly the drangs I know were barely wide enough for two pedestrians to pass.

So, I'm curious just how common a word it was, or indeed if it is still in common use today. If you are familiar with the words drang, drong or drung, do please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 13, 2005