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Faster Composting

SeptoBacWe have composted for years but this year I started to pour a pouch of SeptoBac into the compost bin a couple of times a month.  Septobac is designed to break down solids in septic tanks but is safe for compost as well.  Basically it is enzymes and bacteria that breaks down garden waste a lot faster than composting alone.

We toss food waste and grass into our compost bin.  Generally it takes about a summer to fully break down, depending on what we put into it.  Because we don’t care that much, we occasionally toss corn cobs, pumpkins, and other things that are really slow to break down.  This year was much of the same but we tossed a pouch of SeptoBac in every week and I was stunned what a difference it has made.  

While the summer has been hot and dry, the compost bin has been devouring and processing waste at an incredible rate and seems to be working really well despite us basically tossing almost anything in there.  While I am conscious of the smell, the door has been less than normal which is a plus as well.  It was surprised at how well this has worked.

You can get SeptoBac at Safeway for any other grocery store.

Someone fetch a dustpan and broom

Sea of rubbish left behind by 90,000 music fans at Reading Festival

Sea of Garbage

A huge clear-up operation began within hours of the annual Bank Holiday event closing on Monday. Despite a ‘Love Your Tent’ campaign imploring people to pack up and remove their camping gear, thousands clearly didn’t.

Last year more than 20 tons of re-useable equipment was salvaged – and this year the figure is expected to be even higher. Some will be offered to local charities but damaged or unplaced equipment will be destined for landfill sites.

The Bike Spike


More information at 

What Maggi lives for

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This is what Maggi lives for.  A stick and a lake.  While the water looks nice, the lake wasn’t even ice free yet and Maggi couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get in the water and go for a long swim.  The bad part of this is that she gets cold and then wants to cuddle.

If the media covered the United States like it covered foreign countries

Here is the situation,

Let us say that a guy got drunk at a bar outside of Mobile, Alabama, got in a fight with some dudes about University of Alabama versus Ole Miss college football, and ended up shooting them dead in the parking lot.

Terrible, right? Stupid, violent, too many damn guns, shame, right?

Now imagine that some foreigners slapped a crappy pseudo-anthropological analysis on top, full of weird historical references, non-sequitur references to the church, and misguided assumptions about ethnicity.

It would look like this

Yet another massacre has occurred in the historically war-torn region of the Southern United States – and so soon after the religious festival of Easter.

Brian McConkey, 27, a Christian fundamentalist militiaman living in the formerly occupied territory of Alabama, gunned down three men from an opposing tribe in the village square near Montgomery, the capitol, over a discussion that may have involved the rituals of the local football cult. In this region full of heavily-armed local warlords and radical Christian clerics, gun violence is part of the life of many.

Many of the militiamen here are ethnic Scots-Irish tribesmen, a famously indomitable mountain people who have killed civilized men – and each other – for centuries. It appears that the wars that started on the fields of Bannockburn and Stirling have come to America.

As the sun sets over the former Confederate States of America, one wonders – can peace ever come to this land?

Worst Magazine Cover of the Year?

Slate thinks so

Time Cancer Cover

A decade ago, when I was on the national desk at Newsweek, a handful of us would spend slow nights competing to see who could come closest to writing the Platonic ideal of a perfect coverline. 

The game only had one real guideline: The headlines had to be vaguely rooted in reality.

That’s a journalistic precept that Time feels free to ignore. Witness the headline emblazoned in all-caps on the cover of the magazine’s April 1 issue: “HOW TO CURE CANCER.” It’s followed by an asterisk that directs you to a subtitle, just to make sure you get the point: “Yes, it’s now possible, thanks to new cancer dream teams that are delivering better results faster.”

Which, of course, is completely, utterly, inarguably false. The roughly 580,000 Americans who will die this year from cancer know the reality all too well. For some context, that’s more people than will die from chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes combined.

They go on.

What’s particularly egregious about Time’s cover is that it doesn’t even accurately reflect the contents of the magazine’s 4,000-word story, which highlights a 5-year-old organization “started by entertainment-industry figures unhappy with the progress being made against America’s most deadly disease.” The group’s main innovation, as it were, is to give out tens of millions of dollars to research groups willing to work collaboratively and produce results in three years—an “aggressively short time” in the research world.

This is not an insignificant development: The torrents of information being made available through next-generation genetic sequencing require nimble team efforts that are a rarity in medical research. (It’s also not a new idea: Nine years ago, a 9,900-word piece in Fortune titled “Why We’re Losing The War On Cancer” advocated this same approach.)

But I haven’t found a single cancer researcher who believes this means we’re on the verge of curing cancer. “There’s the potential for a real impact [on developing new cancer treatments] if there’s organizational momentum to pick up scientific strands, political strands, and epidemiological strands and weave them together,” says Siddhartha Mukherjee, a Columbia University hematologist and oncologist and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. “But to what extent were organizational barriers keeping us from having more successful solutions against various cancers? This is not just an organizational problem.”

Instead of jump-starting a conversation about the most effective approach to cancer research, Time distorted it beyond recognition. It’s certainly not the first time that’s happened. It’s been more than four decades since President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971, promising cancer sufferers that their “hopes will not be disappointed.” In 1998, mortality rates for all types of cancer had actually increased slightly, from 200.73 to 200.82 deaths per 100,000 people. That didn’t stop the New York Times from running Gina Kolata’s embarrassing front-page “special report,” which quoted James Watson as saying a researcher at Children’s Hospital in Boston would “cure cancer in two years.” Watson claimed he said no such thing—“When I read her article, I was horrified,” he told a reporter at the time. Regardless, the prediction, the underpinning of Kolata’s piece, was obviously incorrect.

She looked down and cried

Mark Cherrington writes this about a teen girl he was assigned as a court worker

As a youth court worker, it has never been the high profile cases, pews filled with press and families, but more often the silence that have impacted me dearly.

Last Thursday, Parminder Johal, a lawyer with the Youth Criminal Defence Office asked me to see an eighteen year old girl in custody for breaching her probation. The girl had a minor record and was being held in custody for a warrant going back years. Her crime: Not completing an apology letter and forty hours of community service hours. A Summary Offence, she should not have been held in jail under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I entered the interview room: a small cubicle with metal tables, a phone and wall of Plexiglas. When she entered; a petite Aboriginal girl, I could see her face was swollen, yellow and black, looking like old fruit. She threw a nervous smile and was missing a tooth. I introduced myself, “I’m here to help you and provide…”

“I’ve been raped,” she interrupted. Her lips quivered, eyes welled up, and finally she just looked down and cried.

I waited a few minutes. “Perhaps,” I finally said, “somebody else…”

She shook her head and wiped her cheeks with her sleeve. “But you said you’re here to help me? Somebody has to listen? Don’t they?”

A lot of people should have been listening!

She told me she had been at a motel room with some friends. There were drinks, “But I didn’t drink much! I think my drink was spiked,” she added and waking up, bruised, bleeding from her vagina, called her mother frantic, who called the Edmonton City Police Service . As first responders, her expectations as a victim of sexual assault were different than what transpired. The Officer/s ran her name, found she had an old warrant and arrested her.

According to the girl, the only acknowledgement by the police about being raped, was once released she could attend any police station and fill out a statement.

It gets worse you read the entire post.

China vs. Japan in the South China Sea

This looks safeThis looks like it is getting out of hand.  


I wrote a bit about Thanksgiving on the cabin weblog.

Contextless Thoughts

  • Oliver is still in the NICU at RUH. He is doing fine but is still too small to take home. The nurses are trying to fix him up with the little girl in the crib next door but there isn’t a lot of chemistry there.
  • Mark is irritated by the rule that he can’t see Oliver whenever he wants. There was a poster up for the RUH Foundation and he muttered, “I won’t be giving any money to them!”
  • Lee is moving out soon (It was a couple of years ago he was going to move in for a couple of months). He has a nice renovated apartment in Lakeview which he doesn’t know if he is going to keep because he wants to be closer to work. Either way it looks like there is a move in my future. Mark is torn as he hates the idea of his uncle moving out but he really wants Lee’s large bedroom in the basement. He has floated the idea of moving out with Lee but that hasn’t gotten much traction.
  • A friend of mine drives a Ford Explorer but spent less then $400 on gas last year. He walks the ten blocks to work every day even when it is -40 degrees out. He only drives when he has to be somewhere after work that he can’t walk to. Considering that the average American spends almost $4000.00 a year in gas, that’s a considerable saving.

Mark is Eight

Mark turns eight today and he woke up to some fun birthday gifts.  As I mentioned before, I got him a skimboard and the DVD of Surf’s Up.  He wants to surf but in Saskatchewan you are somewhat limited with your surfing options.  After proving to me he can read an analog clock, we got him his first digital watch.  He can’t wait until it is dark and he can try out the indigo night light.  We also got him some Cobra 2 way radios for use at the lake.  Other gifts include the Transformers game for PS2, a Tech Deck, and a art kit (he recently told Wendy that “art’s my thing”).  We generally get him a book for his birthday but after getting a dozen Hardy Boy and Danny Orlis books at the recent Symphony Orchestra book sale, he has a lot to read.

Lee gave him a three person tent and a sleeping bag.  Lee loved sleeping outside as a kid and thought Mark may want to do that at the lake.  Of course it is all fun and games until a skunk decides to wander in during the night.

Later today we are heading to go-kart track downtown for some racing action.  Last year Mark was an inch too short and was devastated he couldn’t race so this year is good to go.  Of course he has been trash talking none stop about his racing skills so we will see how he feels when he is nudged into the tires.

It’s been a good year for Mark.  His grades are excellent, he loves karate, and Maggi actually listens to him.  The next year should be even more enjoyable, well until he breaks his leg skimboarding.

Back from Calgary

I am back from Calgary.  I was traveling with another manager from the Centre.  As we were in a meeting last night he got a call from his kid who was being rushed to the hospital.  After waiting for more information, we packed up, checked out and left Calgary at 10:30 p.m. and started to drive home.  It wasn’t my favorite drive ever (my record isn’t on the record) and we rolled into Saskatoon around 4:00 a.m.   I drove most of the trip and I discovered Amp Energy drink.  I was in a convenience store in Drumheller looking at what drink to get and I actually thought, “If it is good enough for Dale Earnhardt Jr., it is good enough for me.”  Amp Energy gave me a boost was a lot better tasting than Red Bull.  While driving through the night isn’t that much fun, it was nice to get home 18 hours earlier than expected.

The conference was a good one.  I took some classes on disaster relief and I know more about the Incident Command System than I ever thought possible.  Hopefully I will never have to put into practice what I have learned but if I do, I should be a bit more prepared.  I also managed to get downtown and connect with Karen/OneHouse and also Dave King who returned my coffee mug Wendy gave him when he was in Saskatoon. 

Mark is quite sick this afternoon and I am exhausted.  The plan is to watch the Canadiens lose to the Philadelphia Flyers and then call it an early night.

Don’t let the facts get in the way of your sign


Apparently all of the historically aware protestors were off at another event.

Charter for Compassion

This comes from Karen Armstrong at the 2008 TED.  via OneHouse

A new look around here

If you are reading this on my site (rather than via a feed reader), you will notice a new look and feel around here.  I was looking at a bunch of WordPress themes and while I liked some of them, many themes seemed to get in the way of the content or are used by and therefore as common as the Blogger templates.

In addition to playing around with the design, I added some features under the sites hood.  While playing with WordPress I found a dynamic sitemap generator plugin.  While Blogger automatically pings Google Blog Search and you can submit your RSS feed to Google Sitemaps (Wendy does that with The Cooking Blog and it makes a pretty big difference in how Google sees new content), I went out and installed a free Google Sitemap generator that works as a PHP script.  It found all 8230 posts and the other 100 pages that make up and created sitemaps for Google, MSN, and Yahoo! search.  If your server can run PHP, you can download it here.