Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Prepare yourself as this is no ordinary race. . .

Early bird deadline - March 1st, 2006
So don't delay! Your entry fee goes up by quite a bit tomorrow.

The Canadian Death Race: Are You Tough Enough?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Mo snakes

Bonnie's little girl.

Here are some images of Bonnie's new snake. It's a ball python. It's about to shed it's skin. If I'm lucky I'll get to watch it eat for the first time on Thursday night. It's eyes are all milky blue as it prepares to slough it's skin though, so it's as blind as a bat. How comforting! Any bets as to when I get tagged?

Actually the ball pythons are pretty shy guys and not aggressive at all. We looked at corn snakes a lot, and might end up with one yet.

I'm hoping to hear back on a rescued adult ball python from Ontario this week. Maybe I can have an adult while Bonnie eases the young one into life as a pet.

The rats it eats are just under 50 grams. It's an amazing meal for such a small critter. If it eats strongly, it will have a feeding once every 5 to 7 days. It'll grow up to be at least four feet long. They are quite heavy bodied things too. Weird to have such things around your body. I remember being so scared of snakes when I was a kid. Then, silly me, didn't want to pass on my phobias to my kids. Duh! No look at the mess I'm in. < g >

You can see the heat tape between the two containers. In at least one of the images of Bonnie's snake. I've got it rigged to a simple wall switch dimmer with a remote indoor outdoor thermometer probe to keep tabs on the temperature. It's a 20W strip eleven inches by 12 inches. It works like a charm.

Tim at Cranwill's Captive Bred Snakes - www.cranwill.com> has been a very big help in getting hooked up with some good information.

As torture in Iraq was being exposed, Rumsfeld grovelled before Saddam

Defeat is victory. Death is life
By Robert Fisk

02/26/06 "The Independent" -- -- Everyone in the Middle East rewrites history, but never before have we had a US administration so wilfully, dishonestly and ruthlessly reinterpreting tragedy as success, defeat as victory, death as life - helped, I have to add, by the compliant American press. I'm reminded not so much of Vietnam as of the British and French commanders of the First World War who repeatedly lied about military victory over the Kaiser as they pushed hundreds of thousands of their men through the butchers' shops of the Somme, Verdun and Gallipoli. The only difference now is that we are pushing hundreds of thousands of Arabs though the butchers' shops - and don't even care. Read more...

The degree to which people appear asleep at the switch is frightening, but I've always felt that way.

The thing about adhd is... Hey look string!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Covering the bases

Apparently I've joined the 95th percentile of runners over 40 (now pushing 47) that haven't been injured in their first year of running. I have other hurdles to jump, but injury isn't one of them yet, fortunately. I keep finding articles about injury, genetics and their impact on athletes interesting.

Simple Rule: Run Smart

A marathon training schedule for the non-specialist, which has been tested in the lab and on the roads

Paul's photography

Paul's sent me another update to his look into San Fransisco.

Just a few shots from Noe Valley & The Mission.

Gallery One

Gallery Two

-one page or less each


I lead an active life. It's often difficult for me to gain a detached view of a larger picture. This conversation has brought me a long way along a good road.

Pam's friend John is likely close to finishing the Winnipeg Hypo-half as I write this. He's wearing what was going to be my bib and although it stings a little still, I'm on firmer ground now.

On rising this morning I was clear on what goals are ahead. I got to the Santa Shuffle accidentally in the best shape I've been in for twenty or more years. I felt empowered, relaxed and confident in my abilities.

The major hurdles of running a marathon are for me, getting enough miles in to avoid crumpling like a cheap suit when my muscles run out of fuel. The mental aspects are another matter, but coming to the start in strong condition is what I'm after.

Whether it be a short race or a long one, I'm there to celebrate whatever genetics I bring to the table.

The things I want to sacrifice for running are lifestyle choices that are long over due. The devil is in the details though. I believe I am hard wired to resist change. It may be a coded norm to keep groups stable and more likely to survive, I don't know. I do know that changing, independent of surroundings is difficult like nothing else. Slow learner maybe. :P

There maybe times where I set aside a block of months to make room for more running, but not now. There are too many signals of warning through others examples of the threshold being much lower than expected for a 47 year old new to the game. I've got lots of time to adapt if I remain healthy and I have a whole lot to learn about leaving myself a maximum of health to recover with.

If and when I can play on a higher level than that from a position of strength, then maybe I can take the time to formalise a training program, worry about times, race for something other than the thrill of participating with birds of a feather and bear down on training more heavily.

With limits below 20 miles a week, I'll now try and gain some experience with recovery, with the aim to learn how best to recover most strongly. I've played with the application of the stress now for a year and a half but have always put the stress above the recovery.

The pendulum swings.

Colombian Boa Constrictor

I failed to mention that the snake around Manon's neck weighed nearly 13 kilos? It was too much for me, but she's still all fired up today. I win!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

reptiles and amphibians

I took Manon with me to look at a 15 year old boy's obsession with reptiles and amphibians today. He has something like 32 different breeding pairs of geckos. Manon spent much of the time wearing an 8 foot Colombian Boa of this kid's Dad, Dan. We had some adventures. It was a hell of a drive, but we had some fun.

Manon_boa - or - I takes a worried girl to sing those worried songs.

Manon_boa_0 - or - Still worried.

Manon_boa_1 - or - OK, this might be cool.

Life without orange juice

Lactate Testing - Basic Concepts

Are you plagued with thoughts that go something like, "How will I ever tell if the training I'm doing is improving my performance?" Well, me too!

Accusport has some good testing ideas.

So does Peak Performance. High-speed running tests are excellent predictors of marathon finishing time

Tyler Wereha - Better beer through science

Local Boy Does gud

Lost world' found in Indonesian jungle

This isn't exactly hot off the press or anything, but I think it's pretty cool anyway. :P

Scientists said on Tuesday that they had found a "Lost World" in an Indonesian mountain jungle, home to dozens of exotic new species of birds, butterflies, frogs and plants.

Magic... illusion, and sleep deprivation

I've been talking to a young python about such matters as illusion. That one is particularly wise and has captured my entire imagination in an unblinking stare.

I speak dog fluently. I speak horse enough to get by. Speaking snake reveals all of my illusions for as far as I can see. I'll be speaking snake steadily now, for a while. Only at home though.

I conversed with a four year old six foot Irinan carpet python too, but the illusion of being rendered down to a simple support to assist in balance was too strong for me and I began to feel buds stir in the lengthening light. The juveniles showed no respect what so ever for anything I might previously have held as truth.

This carpet python took me all the way back to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees.

Before I begin to feel a little warm, I'll tuck myself in and sing myself a song.

The River runs to the west, as does the energy. I don't sense much strength to the east, but west, well west is strong. The talk under the ice is loud and clear.

If you assume that there's no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there's a chance for you to contribute to making a better world. That's your choice.
Noam Chomsky, The Chronicles of Dissent

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Made of stone and steel

Time Machine

Will a clock that works flawlessly for 10,000 years become the greatest wonder of the world?
Prototype number two of the Clock of the Long Now is, at nine feet tall, a diminutive model of the final version, which is expected to be at least 60 feet tall and will have multiple displays. This prototype records the changes in the relative positions of Earth and the five other planets that humans can eyeball without a telescope. "If you came up to the clock thousands of years from now, you could still read the time, even if you did not have the same time system we use now," says designer Danny Hillis.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More money than rich

World's Most Expensive Watches 2005

BaselWorld 2006 is coming up. Any idea, which brands
will present the most expensive ones for 2006?

reality check

I'm getting old and can't ignore as much of the everyday stresses as I once could.

I'm working on the third week back into gear. I haven't been able to get beyond the 20 mile per week threshold without my immune system showing signs of stress, so some things will have to change.

Sleep is the primary impediment to progress and the one I'm focused on most. Second to sleep would be diet. I have a fast metabolism, but tend to over eat and that bogs me down tremendously.

The strategy lately has been to establish a lower threshold and work to have strong resulting recovery by having a better sleep pattern and a lighter diet. I want to bring strength training back in regularly too, so although my mileage is way down, I'm taking two days a week to pound the core strength work.

So far it seems to be working. I got a lot of animals out of the house which helps keep the allergic responses down to a minimum. I love animals around me, but push has come to shove. I retained a small young budgie to tame and I'm picking up a yearling snake later this week. Might have an adult coming as a rescue animal later in the week, I don't know yet. Excited!!!

Monday is core strength.

Tuesday is 2 mile running.

Wednesday is off.

Thursday is two miles running.

Friday is core strength.

Saturday is off.

Sunday is 2 miles running.

I'll do this until I can see myself getting stronger in mood, resiliency and fitness. Once I can get that bit of self preservation looked after, I'll add another 2 mile run to make it a four day a week event or maybe simply extend the Sunday run to be a long one.

It may be necessary to not have a four day week plan for running in order to ensure a strong recovery between runs. So much depends on the quality of rest.

I've been reading and thinking a lot about training focused on recovery rather than the stimulus of the workout itself. The thought being centered around a workout not being much use in advancing my fitness if I'm not applying the stress from a position of strength.

From my immune system's response to the 20 mile week, I'd say it's all about recovery. If I can recover strongly, then applying a stress to the system will force it to adapt, but if not, I just realign myself with the ditch again.

I knew this running thing would push me to new levels of understanding about how best to care for myself. It's working. I hope by beginning again and approaching a long steady curve toward higher mileage, I can reach my goals and still retain the other activities I enjoy. That 24 hours in a day rule blows.

This all is a blow to the ego, but so much better than walking away. Square one again, but a little wiser.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Paulie pics

More images of San Francisco. What a place of beauty, at least to my eye. These are the highlights. The full set is in the sub folder.


I wish there were more hours in the day.


. February 20 . 9:00 PM
By Jim Sanders (2005)
A return visit for this independently produced documentary that exposes the
disturbing truth about the American led drug war and now the war on
terrorism and the impact this policy has on the indigenous peoples of
Bolivia. Featuring interviews with Noam Chomsky, Evo Morales, Stanley
Shrager (US Anti Narcotics).

"Guerilla style explosiveness." Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press


Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Basic "on the run" nutrition and hydration guidelines

Consume 25-50g carbs 1-2 hours before exercise. Try an energy bar, bowl of cereal, bagel, fruit...your usual diet. Drink 8-16 oz. of water or combine with the above in a carbohydrate drink.

During run:
Consume 25g carbs for every 45 minutes of exercise. Go for a gel pack. They typically contain 25-30 grams and are easy to digest. Drink 4-8 oz. water or diluted sports drink for every 15 minutes of exercise.

Consume 25-50g carbs immediately after exercise. This can be a combination of food and drink. Of course, you will need to re-hydrate with water while eating an energy bar, bagel, or some form of carbohydrate. Or, you can drink 25-50 grams of carbohydrates in a sports drink if you have a hard time eating right after a workout. Begin drinking 16 oz. of water for every pound lost during exercise. Continue to drink water throughout the day. Consume another 25-50g carbs 30 minutes after exercise. Consume 50-100g carbs and 20-40g protein 1 hour after exercise. This is a good time to eat a well balanced, sit-down meal. Soup and a sandwich, salads, whatever suits your tastes. Chicken and tuna are great sources of protein. Consume 50-100g carbs per hour and 20-40g protein every 2 hours. Continue to do this for 6 hours after your run. You will find that by following this routine, especially on your long run days, you'll feel refreshed rather than exhausted after your workout.
Read the source...

Still hiting the ditch pretty regularly.

I thought this was pretty tight. This rings true to me

From the March issue of "Running Times" by Pete Pfitzinger:

Training leads to fatigue that in turns leads to recovery and that in turn leads to supercompensation. Thus with the right combination of type, duration and intensity of training, the body "adapts" to a higher level. The supercompensation is the accumlated result of training.

One needs the optimal balance with 2 - 3 hard training sessions per week even though it takes 5 - 10 days to completely recover from a hard session (and I have read elsewhere up to 30 days for a run of > 18 miles). It is also interesting that it takes at least 10 days to obtain the full benefit of a workout - something to keep in mind when during the taper you believe you need one more long run, one more full tempo ru, one more set of hills in the last week or so before the race.

How long to train: It takes at least six weeks for results to show up through lab testing so Rome (marathon) was not build in a day. Also something to quite in mind because of all of the recent threads about how discouraged people are after their first ''long' long run.

So what is the prefect balance because training and recovery: The bad news is that GENETICS will be the one number determing factor. (Health, lifestyle and current level of training are also factors). A huge factor when thinking that you are not doing as well as person "X" because you may be one person who simply adapts slower and needs more recovery.

So the key points seem to be:

1) 10 days at least is required for training to obtain the full benefits of training.

2) 6 weeks at least to show improved performance.

3) The right mix of intensity, duration, type of runs and recovery is dependent upon the genetics of the individual.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

twenty years and counting

My parents will celebrate fifty years together this summer. It's a mile stone I've been reflecting on for months. I'm looking forward to congratulating them in person knowing some of what it costs to not grow so far apart that it can't be sustainable.

Twenty years and I still remember our first Valentine.

Tonight it's an old standby in celebration of history and the merit therein.

Roast chicken, home grown, dusted in salt to tighten the skin. Stuffed with onion and parsnips from our earth to keep it moist and to provide tasty drippings for the inevitable brown sauce. The neck olive oiled and peppered aside to caramelize beside the bird.

Slow cooked and well browned is what provides me with that caramel trimmings that provide so much flavour for meat of all kinds and this will be no different. Covered for the majority of the long spell against the heat, then uncovered to brown the exterior to showcase the wonders of colour and presentation. Parsnips will be added to the roast once the lid is off. I'll roll them in the juices and leave them to soften and brown.

Mashed spuds with roast garlic throughout. Whipped by hand to a smooth cream, my Mum still craves Manitoba potatoes from her sea view in Qualicum Beach. This year the potatoes were the least attractive I've ever seen them. Here's hoping for a good growing season to come. It's almost time to smell that dirt alive again.

A large salad of romaine, sprinkled generously with thinly sliced radish, green onion, mushrooms and red sweet pepper. A light toss of hulled roasted sunflower seeds to top it off is making me hungry already.

I'm a bit of a glutton when it comes to food. Lately restraint has been within my grasp and the pleasure of deferred gratification is coming on like a long anticipated and well prepared orgasm. I may have to run to St. Malo for wine.

Time management skills still need work. Bread didn't make the cut today, which is a shame. I've eaten lightly for a couple of weeks and today have fasted since my light break fast this morning. I managed to squeeze in a quick two mile run and that has the juice of needed calories heightened. By six with the kids in tow from basketball, drama or choir I hope to have it all come together as thanks for all that is heart felt.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Believed Shooting Victim Was Zawahiri, Veep Says

CNN is entertaining in it's own way, but The Borwitz Report is so much more along my line of thinking.


Cheney accidentally shoots fellow hunter

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets. read more on CNN...

Inspiration on so many levels

Dean Karnazes wrote a wonderful book about his rise through mid life. It's called Ultramarathonman. It works on so many levels that you need not have any interest in running or mid life to appreciate this man's journey.

One Big Climax

Michelle Thompson's life is one big climax - for a rare condition called Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome (PSAS) means she has up to 300 orgasms a day. Read more...

I'm not convinced this would be a good thing.


Boys, please don't do anything stupid while I'm out, OK? Oh, and don't forget to feed the snake. Bye.

Friday, February 10, 2006


A soulful redition of a George Harrison classic.

Thanks for the nod on this

Cheryl Bartmanovich

Cheryl is an active member of the runningmania.com message board. I met her first on the running room board before the heavy hand of censorship drove many to seek refuge elsewhere, but I digress.

I first met Cheryl with a crew of other mainiacs at my first road race earlier this winter. She loves to have fun and she's been having some more with a trip to Dr. Phil and now to Oprah. She's got quite the story and remains a humble kind woman.

Oprah's follow ups show

Winnipeg Sun - Runner shed 100+ lbs. - content below.

A Manitoba woman who lost more than 100 pounds through marathon running has shared her story with Oprah Winfrey.

Interlake resident Cheryl Bartmanovich flew to Chicago a few weeks ago to make an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her interview with the talk-show superstar is scheduled to air today.

Bartmanovich's appearance comes almost two years since she saw Oprah's interview with Wynonna Judd about her struggles with weight -- an interview so inspiring, the then-265 pound 44-year-old bought a treadmill.


"Almost a year to the day, I ran my first half-marathon," Bartmanovich said this week.

The mother of two from Lake Francis -- about an hour's drive north of Winnipeg -- has traveled far both physically and emotionally in the last two years.

She's done six half-marathons and a full 26-mile challenge since she decided to buy a treadmill, dropping more than 100 pounds through a rigid running schedule and what she describes as a "sensible" diet, limiting breads and loading up on veggies (but banning potatoes of any sort).

Bartmanovich has fond memories of the first time she went to her husband's company's annual holiday bash after her transformation. She said it took a few hours to realize his long-time co-workers weren't ignoring her; they were having a tough time figuring out who he'd brought.

But better than wearing a slinky black dress to a Christmas party -- and weighing less than she did when she got married -- was the feeling of finishing her first full marathon alongside the world-famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"A fantastic place for a holiday but a little warm for a Manitoba girl like me to run a marathon," she said.

Producers for Oprah's show first spotted Bartmanovich about a year ago, when she appeared on Dr. Phil. Bartmanovich credits, in part, advice from a book written by Dr. Phil McGraw for encouraging her to get into shape.

She said having the chance to talk with Oprah, who she described as "down to earth," was a once-in a-lifetime experience.

"It was an experience I'll never forget," said Bartmanovich. "When you meet Oprah in person, she's exactly the same."

It's expected Bartmanovich's appearance will include a segment where a personal letter from Judd to Bartmanovich is read.

But Bartmanovich sounds most excited about her next trip. She plans to head to Phoenix, Ariz., for an Arthritis Society fundraising marathon -- a charity close to her heart since her father and a close friend suffer from the disease.

"I'm running for those who can't, and hopefully making a difference," Bartmanovich said.

salmon of the prairie

Pike for one:

- Three fat, fresh, clean fillets of "Northern"

- One big whack of butter, and none of the cheap imitation crap either. :P

- Pepper to taste.

Preheat large cast iron skillet to a point just below the burning temperature of butter. Experience counts.

Preheat a plate in the oven to 150F

Melt butter in the pan and add fillets.

Add pepper to taste (or not) to the sides that are facing up and after turning them, pepper the other side lightly as well.

Cook fillets only just until the flesh at the thickest part turns white. The fillets should cook rapidly if your pan is a good temperature.

Serve on warmed plate and live large.

I had nothing but fish. No carbs, no veggies, just fish and whopping mouthfuls at that. If the temperature in the pan is correct it seems as if the fish doesn't take on much of the fat like it might at lower temperatures, but I have no idea whether this is a reality for others.

I went to bed very happy.

I had opportunity to help out a local old timer who lives pretty much on what he kills. ehhe It sounds so silly when it's written out like that, but it's true.

He had a clock that his Mum loved that needed what my Dad would have called a "hemming". A hemming is a cheap fix to eek out another ten thousand miles to aid in letting the trip to the garbage can come a little easier knowing death is imminent well ahead of schedule. :D

After coaxing this bit of plastic back from the brink, he suggested that tomorrow he'd come by with a fishing reel he'd like me to look at. I smiled bravely and was grateful to have learnt some acting.

The fishing reel was about the same quality as Mum's clock. I made the problem go away inside 45 minutes and listened intently all the while to some fun stories about growing up in the back country.

As I'm on the way back to the shop after saying our goodbye, he asked if I liked fish.

I grew up on the west coast from the age of seven, having been born on the prairie, so I am known to slobber uncontrollably when I'm separated from fresh fish for too long. I wiped my chin as I responded in the affirmative and he pulled out a bag with six jack fish and asked if I knew how to fillet them. Saliva now soiling my beard, I took the time to show him the special knife for preparing boneless pike fillets my brother had gifted me and said, "hell yeah!"

They were still flinching in the bag. They represented an hour and a half on St. Malo Lake and I was thinking evil thoughts of overpayment! I recovered fortunately and the girls will get their share tonight.
Alive and kicking.

** Bruce I could use a video on how to hone my skills!

Thursday, February 9, 2006


Thanks to eschatology@ljin adults_add@lj for The Top 10 ADDvantages of Having ADD

The Top 10 ADDvantages of Having ADD

By ADD Coach Jennifer Koretsky Copyright 2005

1. Compassion
People with ADD have a tremendous power to connect with other people. But it goes a step further than that. We also have an advanced ability to empathize with others, and to see many different perspectives.

2. Creativity
I've never met an ADDer who wasn't creative! Writers, painters, musicians, film makers, designers, sculptors, comedians - the list goes on! Artistic talents are abundant. Composers Mozart and Beethoven are believed to have had ADD.

3. Drive
When an ADDer is bored with a task, completing it can seem like torture. But give an ADDer an interesting project to work on and watch out! When we want to succeed, and we have the necessary tools to do so, there is no stopping us!

4. Problem Solving Ability
ADDers thrive on solving problems and puzzles. Give us an interesting problem to solve and we won't be able to drop it until we've found the solution! Important historical inventors such as Thomas Edison and Thomas Jefferson are believed to have had ADD.

5. Hyper-Focus
The ability to hyper-focus is something that ADDers can use to our advantage. When kept under control and directed towards productive tasks, like accomplishing goals and living dreams, it can be an incredible asset that allows us to get the job done, and done well!

6. Sense of Humor/Comedic Flair
Most ADDers love to laugh, and many also have a knack for making others laugh! Famous comedians such as Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams are rumored to have ADD.

7. Resiliency
There's no denying that even though there are many great qualities that come along with ADD, there are also challenges. But ADDers have an incredible ability to bounce back from those challenges, and others' criticism of those challenges that we've endured.

8. Intuition
ADDers have a sharp sense of intuition. This may be due to highly tuned levels of perception, or great insight into the human mind, or something else that we have yet to understand. Whatever the reason, it's a very useful gift!

9. Idea Generating
ADDers are wonderful idea generators. We don't usually like to be bothered with details, but we can come up with ideas at lightning speed! We're a true asset in brainstorming meetings! 10. That "Special Something"
Many ADDers feel that they have a unique way of looking at the world, a perspective that others just don't understand. That is, until the ADDer meets other people with ADD! You might say that we're on our own wavelength!

From enoneoftheabove@lj This treat posted to adults_add@lj

Misconceptions about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Frequently Asked Questions, and their answers, for alt.depressed.as.fuck

This is from the guy that writes the crazymeds site. I can't help but enjoy this faq.


Best laugh today.

Mr. Roman's baby pic?

From Dvorak's blog

Bucking for a Darwin Award

Bush NASA crony George Deutsch lied about graduating from college, forced to resign — Major Media Misses Story AGAIN!

I can't help but love this guy. I liked him on Tech TV and his blog is a steady stream of entertaining content.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

neck ties

I am catching Bonnie's love of snakes. Friday we went to see a Winnipeg breeder to get a feel for what might be involved in keeping an exotic pet. I remember collecting myself to act as if I was comfortable with the local garter snakes so the kids wouldn't be scared of them. Friday I was reminded how far I've come in tolerating snakes.

There were too many snakes to count in Tim's basement. His kids were oddly calm while we talked. :D Bonnie and I both thought the kids looked as interesting as the snakes. Wide awake and bushy tailed. < g > To say that Tim's quite comfortable with snakes would be an understatement. He's so comfortable, I was in over my head long before I could get my defences up.
Tim kept answering questions and using his snakes to punctuate one point and another. Some, like his beautiful carpet python were very active.
Tim opened up the front of the cage and smoothly lifted the snake out and it immediately came awake, alive and enthusiastic. Once free of the cage, Tim held it by it's tail and let it extend fully to display it's full six foot length. As Tim's doing this, he told us that pound for pound it's one of the strongest snakes. As he's saying this the snake is pulling itself up against gravity in a most graceful fashion, all the while looking cool calm and collected. Then, for contrast, Tim was off to retrieve a full grown female ball python.

Before he walked away he quickly and casually handed me the carpet python.
The snake was constricting my neck with a single loop before I realised what was going on. Tim shrugged and suggested I unwind this six footer from the tail end if it got to be a problem and went ahead with the conversation. The carpet pythons are active hunters I gather. I don't know what this guy/gal weighted, but at six feet and two hands around, it wasn't like the garter snakes I'd known from home, I'll tell ya.
The colours on this snake were amazing and I got a really good look at the head as it proceeded to gain leverage around my neck, licking it's way along the back of my head as it went. The head was the most wicked example of a predatory serpent I could ever imagine.

The ball python is an ambush hunter. This girl was about four feet long, but much thicker and much more docile than the carpet python. It was perfect for dangling around your neck while you sketch, right Boo? It was wildly exciting to have these massive full grown snakes to handle. Tim's demo was very impressive. He's the right guy in the right field. He's calm and conscious, like his snakes and his kids. No doubt we'll be back when it's time to buy.
Thanks Tim.

Saturday, February 4, 2006


As I read reports tonight that France has advanced plans to legalize P2P, I was reminded that during the copyright reform process, groups such as CRIA are often heard to say that Canada needs to follow the lead of the rest of the world. In light of recent events, I suspect that many user groups might be inclined to agree. We could follow:



Works of art that also tell time.

Amazing images

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

December 14, 2005
Text of Harper's Council for National Policy speech

OTTAWA (CP) - The text from a speech made by Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, to a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing U.S. think tank, and taken from the council's website:

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by giving you a big welcome to Canada. Let's start up with a compliment. You're here from the second greatest nation on earth. But seriously, your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.

Now, having given you a compliment, let me also give you an insult. I was asked to speak about Canadian politics. It may not be true, but it's legendary that if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians.

But in any case, my speech will make that assumption. I'll talk fairly basic stuff. If it seems pedestrian to some of you who do know a lot about Canada, I apologize.

I'm going to look at three things. First of all, just some basic facts about Canada that are relevant to my talk, facts about the country and its political system, its civics. Second, I want to take a look at the party system that's developed in Canada from a conventional left/right, or liberal/conservative perspective. The third thing I'm going to do is look at the political system again, because it can't be looked at in this country simply from the conventional perspective.

First, facts about Canada. Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it. Canadians make no connection between the fact that they are a Northern European welfare state and the fact that we have very low economic growth, a standard of living substantially lower than yours, a massive brain drain of young professionals to your country, and double the unemployment rate of the United States.

In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.

That is beginning to change. There have been some significant changes in our fiscal policies and our social welfare policies in the last three or four years. But nevertheless, they're still very generous compared to your country.

Let me just make a comment on language, which is so important in this country. I want to disabuse you of misimpressions you may have. If you've read any of the official propagandas, you've come over the border and entered a bilingual country. In this particular city, Montreal, you may well get that impression. But this city is extremely atypical of this country.

While it is a French-speaking city - largely - it has an enormous English-speaking minority and a large number of what are called ethnics: they who are largely immigrant communities, but who politically and culturally tend to identify with the English community.

This is unusual, because the rest of the province of Quebec is, by and large, almost entirely French-speaking. The English minority present here in Montreal is quite exceptional.

Furthermore, the fact that this province is largely French-speaking, except for Montreal, is quite exceptional with regard to the rest of the country. Outside of Quebec, the total population of francophones, depending on how you measure it, is only three to five per cent of the population. The rest of Canada is English speaking.

Even more important, the French-speaking people outside of Quebec live almost exclusively in the adjacent areas, in northern New Brunswick and in Eastern Ontario.

The rest of Canada is almost entirely English speaking. Where I come from, Western Canada, the population of francophones ranges around one to two per cent in some cases. So it's basically an English-speaking country, just as English-speaking as, I would guess, the northern part of the United States.

But the important point is that Canada is not a bilingual country. It is a country with two languages. And there is a big difference.

As you may know, historically and especially presently, there's been a lot of political tension between these two major language groups, and between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Let me take a moment for a humorous story. Now, I tell this with some trepidation, knowing that this is a largely Christian organization.

The National Citizens Coalition, by the way, is not. We're on the sort of libertarian side of the conservative spectrum. So I tell this joke with a little bit of trepidation. But nevertheless, this joke works with Canadian audiences of any kind, anywhere in Canada, both official languages, any kind of audience.

It's about a constitutional lawyer who dies and goes to heaven. There, he meets God and gets his questions answered about life. One of his questions is, "God, will this problem between Quebec and the rest of Canada ever be resolved?" And God thinks very deeply about this, as God is wont to do. God replies, "Yes, but not in my lifetime."

I'm glad to see you weren't offended by that. I've had the odd religious person who's been offended. I always tell them, "Don't be offended. The joke can't be taken seriously theologically. It is, after all, about a lawyer who goes to heaven."

In any case. My apologies to Eugene Meyer of the Federalist Society.

Second, the civics, Canada's civics.

On the surface, you can make a comparison between our political system and yours. We have an executive, we have two legislative houses, and we have a Supreme Court.

However, our executive is the Queen, who doesn't live here. Her representative is the Governor General, who is an appointed buddy of the Prime Minister.

Of our two legislative houses, the Senate, our upper house, is appointed, also by the Prime Minister, where he puts buddies, fundraisers and the like. So the Senate also is not very important in our political system.

And we have a Supreme Court, like yours, which, since we put a charter of rights in our constitution in 1982, is becoming increasingly arbitrary and important. It is also appointed by the Prime Minister. Unlike your Supreme Court, we have no ratification process.

So if you sort of remove three of the four elements, what you see is a system of checks and balances which quickly becomes a system that's described as unpaid checks and political imbalances.

What we have is the House of Commons. The House of Commons, the bastion of the Prime Minister's power, the body that selects the Prime Minister, is an elected body. I really emphasize this to you as an American group: It's not like your House of Representatives. Don't make that comparison.

What the House of Commons is really like is the United States electoral college. Imagine if the electoral college which selects your president once every four years were to continue sitting in Washington for the next four years. And imagine its having the same vote on every issue. That is how our political system operates.

In our election last Monday, the Liberal party won a majority of seats. The four opposition parties divided up the rest, with some very, very rough parity.

But the important thing to know is that this is how it will be until the Prime Minister calls the next election. The same majority vote on every issue. So if you ask me, "What's the vote going to be on gun control?" or on the budget, we know already.

If any member of these political parties votes differently from his party on a particular issue, well, that will be national headline news. It's really hard to believe. If any one member votes differently, it will be national headline news. I voted differently at least once from my party, and it was national headline news. It's a very different system.

Our party system consists today of five parties. There was a remark made yesterday at your youth conference about the fact that parties come and go in Canada every year. This is rather deceptive. I've written considerably on this subject.

We had a two-party system from the founding of our country, in 1867. That two-party system began to break up in the period from 1911 to 1935. Ever since then, five political elements have come and gone. We've always had at least three parties. But even when parties come back, they're not really new. They're just an older party re-appearing under a different name and different circumstances.

Let me take a conventional look at these five parties. I'll describe them in terms that fit your own party system, the left/right kind of terms.

Let's take the New Democratic Party, the NDP, which won 21 seats. The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that, I have to say. And forgive me jesting again, but the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men.

This party believes not just in large government and in massive redistributive programs, it's explicitly socialist. On social value issues, it believes the opposite on just about everything that anybody in this room believes. I think that's a pretty safe bet on all social-value kinds of questions.

Some people point out that there is a small element of clergy in the NDP. Yes, this is true. But these are clergy who, while very committed to the church, believe that it made a historic error in adopting Christian theology.

The NDP is also explicitly a branch of the Canadian Labour Congress, which is by far our largest labour group, and explicitly radical.

There are some moderate and conservative labour organizations. They don't belong to that particular organization.

The second party, the Liberal party, is by far the largest party. It won the election. It's also the only party that's competitive in all parts of the country. The Liberal party is our dominant party today, and has been for 100 years. It's governed almost all of the last hundred years, probably about 75 per cent of the time.

It's not what you would call conservative Democrat; I think that's a disappearing kind of breed. But it's certainly moderate Democrat, a type of Clinton-pragmatic Democrat. It's moved in the last few years very much to the right on fiscal and economic concerns, but still believes in government intrusion in the economy where possible, and does, in its majority, believe in fairly liberal social values.

In the last Parliament, it enacted comprehensive gun control, well beyond, I think, anything you have. Now we'll have a national firearms registration system, including all shotguns and rifles. Many other kinds of weapons have been banned. It believes in gay rights, although it's fairly cautious. It's put sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act and will let the courts do the rest.

There is an important caveat to its liberal social values. For historic reasons that I won't get into, the Liberal party gets the votes of most Catholics in the country, including many practising Catholics. It does have a significant Catholic, social-conservative element which occasionally disagrees with these kinds of policy directions. Although I caution you that even this Catholic social conservative element in the Liberal party is often quite liberal on economic issues.

Then there is the Progressive Conservative party, the PC party, which won only 20 seats. Now, the term Progressive Conservative will immediately raise suspicions in all of your minds. It should. It's obviously kind of an oxymoron. But actually, its origin is not progressive in the modern sense. The origin of the term "progressive" in the name stems from the Progressive Movement in the 1920s, which was similar to that in your own country.

But the Progressive Conservative is very definitely liberal Republican. These are people who are moderately conservative on economic matters, and in the past have been moderately liberal, even sometimes quite liberal on social policy matters.

In fact, before the Reform Party really became a force in the late '80s, early '90s, the leadership of the Conservative party was running the largest deficits in Canadian history. They were in favour of gay rights officially, officially for abortion on demand. Officially - what else can I say about them? Officially for the entrenchment of our universal, collectivized, health-care system and multicultural policies in the constitution of the country.

At the leadership level anyway, this was a pretty liberal group. This explains one of the reasons why the Reform party has become such a power.

The Reform party is much closer to what you would call conservative Republican, which I'll get to in a minute.

The Bloc Quebecois, which I won't spend much time on, is a strictly Quebec party, strictly among the French-speaking people of Quebec. It is an ethnic separatist party that seeks to make Quebec an independent, sovereign nation.

By and large, the Bloc Quebecois is centre-left in its approach. However, it is primarily an ethnic coalition. It's always had diverse elements. It does have an element that is more on the right of the political spectrum, but that's definitely a minority element.

Let me say a little bit about the Reform party because I want you to be very clear on what the Reform party is and is not.

The Reform party, although described by many of its members, and most of the media, as conservative, and conservative in the American sense, actually describes itself as populist. And that's the term its leader, Preston Manning, uses.

This term is not without significance. The Reform party does stand for direct democracy, which of course many American conservatives do, but also it sees itself as coming from a long tradition of populist parties of Western Canada, not all of which have been conservative.

It also is populist in the very real sense, if I can make American analogies to it - populist in the sense that the term is sometimes used with Ross Perot.

The Reform party is very much a leader-driven party. It's much more a real party than Mr. Perot's party - by the way, it existed before Mr. Perot's party. But it's very much leader-driven, very much organized as a personal political vehicle. Although it has much more of a real organization than Mr. Perot does.

But the Reform party only exists federally. It doesn't exist at the provincial level here in Canada. It really exists only because Mr. Manning is pursuing the position of prime minister. It doesn't have a broader political mandate than that yet. Most of its members feel it should, and, in their minds, actually it does.

It also has some Buchananist tendencies. I know there are probably many admirers of Mr. Buchanan here, but I mean that in the sense that there are some anti-market elements in the Reform Party. So far, they haven't been that important, because Mr. Manning is, himself, a fairly orthodox economic conservative.

The predecessor of the Reform party, the Social Credit party, was very much like this. Believing in funny money and control of banking, and a whole bunch of fairly non-conservative economic things.

So there are some non-conservative tendencies in the Reform party, but, that said, the party is clearly the most economically conservative party in the country. It's the closest thing we have to a neo-conservative party in that sense.

It's also the most conservative socially, but it's not a theocon party, to use the term. The Reform party does favour the use of referendums and free votes in Parliament on moral issues and social issues.

The party is led by Preston Manning, who is a committed, evangelical Christian. And the party in recent years has made some reference to family values and to family priorities. It has some policies that are definitely social-conservative, but it's not explicitly so.

Many members are not, the party officially is not, and, frankly, the party has had a great deal of trouble when it's tried to tackle those issues.

Last year, when we had the Liberal government putting the protection of sexual orientation in our Human Rights Act, the Reform Party was opposed to that, but made a terrible mess of the debate. In fact, discredited itself on that issue, not just with the conventional liberal media, but even with many social conservatives by the manner in which it mishandled that.

So the social conservative element exists. Mr. Manning is a Christian, as are most of the party's senior people. But it's not officially part of the party. The party hasn't quite come to terms with how that fits into it.

That's the conventional analysis of the party system.

Let me turn to the non-conventional analysis, because frankly, it's impossible, with just left/right terminology to explain why we would have five parties, or why we would have four parties on the conventional spectrum. Why not just two?

The reason is regional division, which you'll see if you carefully look at a map. Let me draw the United States comparison, a comparison with your history.

The party system that is developing here in Canada is a party system that replicates the antebellum period, the pre-Civil War period of the United States.

That's not to say - and I would never be quoted as saying - we're headed to a civil war. But we do have a major secession crisis, obviously of a very different nature than the secession crisis you had in the 1860s. But the dynamics, the political and partisan dynamics of this, are remarkably similar.

The Bloc Quebecois is equivalent to your Southern secessionists, Southern Democrats, states rights activists. The Bloc Quebecois, its 44 seats, come entirely from the province of Quebec. But even more strikingly, they come from ridings, or election districts, almost entirely populated by the descendants of the original European French settlers.

The Liberal party has 26 seats in Quebec. Most of these come from areas where there are heavy concentrations of English, aboriginal or ethnic votes. So the Bloc Quebecois is very much an ethnic party, but it's also a secession party.

In the referendum two years ago, the secessionists won 49 per cent of the vote, 49.5 per cent. So this is a very real crisis. We're looking at another referendum before the turn of the century.

The Progressive Conservative party is very much comparable to the Whigs of the 1850s and 1860s. What is happening to them is very similar to the Whigs. A moderate conservative party, increasingly under stress because of the secession movement, on the one hand, and the reaction to that movement from harder line English Canadians on the other hand.

You may recall that the Whigs, in their dying days, went through a series of metamorphoses. They ended up as what was called the Unionist movement that won some of the border states in your 1860 election.

If you look at the surviving PC support, it's very much concentrated in Atlantic Canada, in the provinces to the east of Quebec. These are very much equivalent to the United States border states. They're weak economically. They have very grim prospects if Quebec separates. These people want a solution at almost any cost. And some of the solutions they propose would be exactly that.

They also have a small percentage of seats in Quebec. These are French-speaking areas that are also more moderate and very concerned about what would happen in a secession crisis.

The Liberal party is very much your northern Democrat, or mainstream Democratic party, a party that is less concessionary to the secessionists than the PCs, but still somewhat concessionary. And they still occupy the mainstream of public opinion in Ontario, which is the big and powerful province, politically and economically, alongside Quebec.

The Reform party is very much a modern manifestation of the Republican movement in Western Canada; the U.S. Republicans started in the western United States. The Reform Party is very resistant to the agenda and the demands of the secessionists, and on a very deep philosophical level.

The goal of the secessionists is to transform our country into two nations, either into two explicitly sovereign countries, or in the case of weaker separatists, into some kind of federation of two equal partners.

The Reform party opposes this on all kinds of grounds, but most important, Reformers are highly resistant philosophically to the idea that we will have an open, modern, multi-ethnic society on one side of the line, and the other society will run on some set of ethnic-special-status principles. This is completely unacceptable, particularly to philosophical conservatives in the Reform party.

The Reform party's strength comes almost entirely from the West. It's become the dominant political force in Western Canada. And it is getting a substantial vote in Ontario. Twenty per cent of the vote in the last two elections. But it has not yet broken through in terms of the number of seats won in Ontario.

This is a very real political spectrum, lining up from the Bloc to reform. You may notice I didn't mention the New Democratic Party. The NDP obviously can't be compared to anything pre-Civil War. But the NDP is not an important player on this issue. Its views are somewhere between the liberals and conservatives. Its main concern, of course, is simply the left-wing agenda to basically disintegrate our society in all kinds of spectrums. So it really doesn't fit in.

But I don't use this comparison of the pre-Civil War lightly. Preston Manning, the leader of the Reform party has spent a lot of time reading about pre-Civil War politics. He compares the Reform party himself to the Republican party of that period. He is very well-read on Abraham Lincoln and a keen follower and admirer of Lincoln.

I know Mr. Manning very well. I would say that next to his own father, who is a prominent Western Canadian politician, Abraham Lincoln has probably had more effect on Mr. Manning's political philosophy than any individual politician.

Obviously, the issue here is not slavery, but the appeasement of ethnic nationalism. For years, we've had this Quebec separatist movement. For years, we elected Quebec prime ministers to deal with that, Quebec prime ministers who were committed federalists who would lead us out of the wilderness. For years, we have given concessions of various kinds of the province of Quebec, political and economic, to make them happier.

This has not worked. The sovereignty movement has continued to rise in prominence. And its demands have continued to increase. It began to hit the wall when what are called the soft separatists and the conventional political establishment got together to put in the constitution something called "a distinct society clause." Nobody really knows what it would mean, but it would give the Supreme Court, where Quebec would have a tremendous role in appointment, the power to interpret Quebec's special needs and powers, undefined elsewhere.

This has led to a firewall of resistance across the country. It fuelled the growth of the Reform party. I should even say that the early concessionary people, like Pierre Trudeau, have come out against this. So there's even now an element of the Quebec federalists themselves who will no longer accept this.

So you see the syndrome we're in. The separatists continue to make demands. They're a powerful force. They continue to have the bulk of the Canadian political establishment on their side. The two traditional parties, the Liberals and PCs, are both led by Quebecers who favour concessionary strategies. The Reform party is a bastion of resistance to this tendency.

To give you an idea of how divided the country is, not just in Quebec but how divided the country is outside Quebec on this, we had a phenomenon five years ago. This is a real phenomenon; I don't know how much you heard about it.

The establishment came down with a constitutional package which they put to a national referendum. The package included distinct society status for Quebec and some other changes, including some that would just horrify you, putting universal Medicare in our constitution, and feminist rights, and a whole bunch of other things.

What was significant about this was that this constitutional proposal was supported by the entire Canadian political establishment. By all of the major media. By the three largest traditional parties, the PC, Liberal party and NDP. At the time, the Bloc and Reform were very small.

It was supported by big business, very vocally by all of the major CEOs of the country. The leading labour unions all supported it. Complete consensus. And most academics.

And it was defeated. It literally lost the national referendum against a rag-tag opposition consisting of a few dissident conservatives and a few dissident socialists.

This gives you some idea of the split that's taking place in the country.

Canada is, however, a troubled country politically, not socially. This is a country that we like to say works in practice but not in theory.

You can walk around this country without running across very many of these political controversies.

I'll end there and take any of your questions. But let me conclude by saying, good luck in your own battles. Let me just remind you of something that's been talked about here. As long as there are exams, there will always be prayer in schools.