Tag Archives: writing blog

Of ants and spiders.

I like to take pictures, especially of small insects. Doing macro photography is not easy and requires a lot of concentration, as well as luck and very little wind. But I love these small critters outside my house and not inside. This week, for the first time in several years, I was invaded by several ants no doubt in search of food and perhaps out for a stroll. I found four of them in my kitchen and one enterprising ant was found on my table.

I admired the skill of that ant in climbing the leg of my table, but in the end this excess of adventurism on its part finished in death and provoked my fury. I had to take action and so out came the ant bait traps that had lingered in limbo for the past 5 years.

I wondered if these traps would still work but I had nothing else and I wanted to act badly. After five years in a plastic bag tucked away I knew that this might not be good for the active ingredient inside the traps. But so far I have not seen another ant exploring my appartment. Whether there is a cause and effect between the absence of ants and the traps is unknown and will remain so.

I like spiders, especially jumping spiders. They are very small but with their two big eyes looking at you they seem very intelligent. In this case, the spider I discovered in my house was not a jumping spider but if it was, it did not jump very well or very high.

I was in the bathroom, sitting down for obvious reasons, when my gaze fell upon the white wall to my right. The spider was less than a quarter of an inch and black. And then it moved. I had to wait before jumping on the spider and then I thought, why not capture it.

I fished out an empty transparent holder and gently scooped up the spider. With a spy glass I was able to examine it and saw that its eyes seemed small. I had thoughts of taking out my camera and trying to take pictures but I knew that it was too small and I did not have enough lighting. I decided to spare its life by opening my door on the balcony and gently deposited it on the floor. As I am on the third floor I will assume that it gently descended. Last time I saw it was jumping on the floor in small jumps. I like spiders, but out in the great outdoors. And the ants can join them too!

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The perils of cycling.

I thought that I was well rested this morning but I was simply unable to leave my bed. I had wanted to take pictures at the botanical garden but for that to happen I had to be early, as in before 07:00 a.m. I knew that it would not happen today.

I thought to myself, what should I do? I had to save the day. You know, when the forces of inertia are pushing you to just stay home and hide in your shell. When you feel better in your home rather than out there in the outside world. I had to do something and not waste a warm day with sunny blue skies that were enticing me to go out.

I have a bicycle and I do use it, but purely in an utilitarian way. I simply take it to go to the botanical garden and then back again, in all about 23 minutes. I rarely go out with my bike more than that. But today, I knew was the day to go further, and so at 12:48 precisely I left my home in the direction of the Maisoneuve park. I had an added reason to go bicycling; I had previously bought a new bag for cyclists that you wear on your back. With its aluminum shell and aerodynamic structure I knew that I had to test it.

This park has the advantage of being a green space with a bike path that is about 1.9 miles shaped as an elongated oval. It should be mainly for cyclists but it is not, and that is where the frustration mounts.

First, you have the well meaning parents bringing their kids on the bike path and using it for the first time. They are maybe 5 or 6 years old and they simply block the path. I had to avoid several today. Accidents waiting to happen if you ask me. Please parents, take the kids to a school yard and let them practice there. At least no one can hit them accidentally and they won’t cause accidents by their erratic bicycling.

Then what about walkers? I mean, there is a walking path just besides the cycling path but no, let’s annoy the cyclists…And some runners seem to think that it is okay to run with the flow of cyclists. For some reason. Finally, I even saw a scooter on the path. That takes the cake.

I was a marvel of patience, not saying a word to all these people. I took it out on the bike path, despite that fact that a big sign said that bicycles were limited to about 30 miles per hour or something like that. I probably exceeded that many times during my 4 laps around the oval but I felt better when I left the park. You would to if you would have cycled for about 12 miles. Of course, I’ll pay the price tomorrow as my legs will hurt like mad. And yes, that new bag was incredible as I could feel the flow of air underneath me and around me. Well worth the frustrations that I experienced.

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Women, men and the burkini.

This week the burkini caught my eye for all the wrong reasons. For those who have no clue what this is, the burkini is a swimming suit made for Muslim women so that they can go to the beach and enjoy swimming without showing too much skin. The whole body is covered. It seemed that in France at least, it was subversive for a woman to wear this and some officials interpreted it as a call to civil unrest, no less.

What is incredible is that several mayors in France passed laws against women wearing these swimsuits. Someone finally decided to take the city to court and it was struck down. For now at least in France, in one town, the burkini is legal. It is probable that the other towns will not enforce their laws against this swimsuit.

Of course this ban went too far. It seems that as long as you justify it by talking about keeping public order anything goes. Only in a town in Corsica would the ban be probably upheld as supporters of the burkini and opponents went to blows on the beach.

Of course a woman has the right to wear as little or as much as she wants at the beach. I wonder why some men are not forced to wear something more than a Speedo. Some of them look like beached whales, a rather unsavory thing to look at. Perhaps a law should be passed forbidding middle-aged men from wearing skimpy swimsuits.

What is most disheartening is that nearly all the presidential candidates at the French election for President propose to enact laws that would ban the burkini. Inevitably it will go the the European courts to settle the matter once and for all.

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Disaster strikes a digital currency.

This article from the New York Times really caught my eye. It seems that a new digital currency that was about to be launched was siphoned off more than 50 million of digital money. It was a crowd funding venture that was deemed very successful. They wanted to prove the safety and security of digital money. So much for that.

Experts had already pointed out some vulnerablities in the code in late May but nothing was done it seems. The only good thing is that the money is not really gone, only frozen in something called a digital version of an airtight double door. The real debate now it seems is to write code that would retrieve it or leave it there. But some purists believe that human meddling should not happen. Debates about whether to fork or not as they say is still raging.

The other famous digital currency called Bitcoin as also suffered from such an attack. In 2014 half a billion dollars worth of Bitcoins were lost. But it is interesting to note that Bitcoin has bounced back every time such thefts have occurred. It is resilient if nothing else.

The beauty of theses digital currencies is that governments do not control them, but individuals or groups do. At the heart of the matter is trust, who can you trust to operate and control such a currency.

I was reading a few days ago that even the Bank of Canada is presently experimenting with software that would create a digital currency. I am not sure that I would consider using it, although I would trust a central bank more than some anonymous groups or people. As far as I can see, only those called early adopters would embrace such a risky scheme. Only when more safeguards exist will people embrace it and not before as the risks are too high.

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The carbon problem.

By now most people will agree that solutions are needed to the solve climate change. Solutions exist but up to now trying to lock the carbon in the atmosphere safely and for long periods of time were not successful.

But now, scientists in Iceland have been able to turn the gas into stone and so lock it away in a permanent way. The gas is dissolved with water and the mixture is pumped into certain rocks. The reaction of the mixture with the rocks means that the mixture forms a mineral called calcite.

For the process to work some stones are better than others. Volcanic rocks called basalts are the best for this process as they are rich in calcium, magnesium and iron reacting with CO2 in an ideal way.

The great advantage of this process is that 95% of the carbon dioxide is converted into calcite and this happens very quickly, in less than two years. As the conversion is rapid so will be the monitoring of the process.

The negative about this new technique is that the scale of the projects would have to be larger than the ones being experimented right now, and a lot of water would be needed as well as the right kind of rock.

The best solution according to scientists would be to use the ocean floors and the margins of the continents to safely store the CO2. It seems as well that using sea water would also work well with the process.

Of course more testing still has to be done, nevertheless if this technique works perhaps the consequences of climate change could be mitigated to a large degree, giving us a chance to better be prepared for the unpredictable consequences of such a major upheaval.

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Living wage vs minimum wage.

More and more in the news we are hearing a debate between these two ideas; between earning a living wage as opposed to a minimum wage. There is a big difference between the two.

A living wage is defined as the minimum hourly wage that must be earned by two people in a family of four in order to meet their basic needs. This wage only reflects the real cost of living and is based on actual expenses with no extravagant expenses. One cannot plan a retirement on such a living wage.

A legal minimum wage is one mandated by law that forces companies to pay a certain hourly rate irrespective if that hourly rate meets the real cost of living. Obviously, living in a large city might be more costly than living in a small town for example. None of these differences are reflected in a mandated mimimum wage. This is why people sometimes speak about the working poor, people who work at mimimum wage or just above it and yet have trouble meeting their financial responsabilities.

One way to fight poverty is precisely by having workers earn a living wage, one where they just not only survive but one where they can thrive and meet all their financial responsabilities. More and more companies are joining associations that promote the living wage and these companies in turn offer higher wages to its employees voluntarily. No need for coercion by governments using the legislative route.

I for one applaud these initatives. I always feel bad when I enter a fast-food joint knowing full well that the people on the other side of the counter, fellow human beings as I, are paid just barely over the minimum required by law. These companies sell franchises to others but in return the people buying these franchises must respect the rule book of the company. A fast-food worker earning 15$/hour? God forbid….

In my own small way I have decided to chip in; I will not eat in a fast-food joint that operates in the above fashion, by paying people as little as possible and making money of the sweat of these employees. We should all take a stand and if everyone did that companies would react as the bottom line would be adversely affected. Let’s raise the standards for everyone. Because we are all human beings, not slaves.

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The man in the tree.

I was very interested in this story that occurred this week in Seattle. An agitated man with a long beard and disheveled clothes climbed a 80 foot Sequoia tree and remained there for the night. He refused to cooperate with police and spent the night in a makeshift fort that he made in the tree. It was only when he came down for a snack the next day that he was taken in. Some would say that he was simply a philosopher gone mad with city life. Of course, no need to be a philosopher for that.

Now it is clear that the man was probably in some sort of mental distress as he was yielding a knife according to witnesses. And of course climbing trees in the middle of a city is not exactly something mundane. What is surprising is how this man was treated by the social media. Quickly someone created a twitter account to parody him and even the Seattle police on its account created some tweets, some of which were jokes. There was even a live feed by local news with a newscaster narrating the antics of the man in the tree. In other words, a real circus

The newscaster saw in the whole affair a metaphor; would not some of us climb up in a tree and forget about the world we live in? Or forget our problems?

Mental health is no joking matter, and we obviously have some ways to go before some of us understand this. For the Seattle police to joke about someone’s mental health is dismaying to say the least. Shame on them. For news station to consider this event as news is typical of them. Another slow news day perhaps in Seattle…..

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