Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fine Alberta-Grade Wingnuttery, With A Side of Industry Whining

Shorter Neil Waugh: That fucking treehugger Harper is in league with Greenpeace to make me pay more for burgers.

Normally, I'd leave it at that, but I'd like to take a closer look at one part of Waugh's article:

Down in the Ozarks yesterday, the Alberta Tories' favourite meat packer, Tyson Foods, was also crying the blues. And not just because the "beef segment" continued to lose money in the first quarter. Largely to blame for its $23-million deficit was "operating losses at the company's Lakeside operation in Canada."

But Tyson CEO Richard Bond had a more urgent problem to discuss with shareholders.

"The dramatic rise in corn prices has become a major issue," he sighed. And while he said he "fully supports efforts toward renewable energy," Bond also warned of the "negative and unintended consequences of overusing grains."

First of all, while the overuse of crops for biofuel can cause problems, that has been recognized and those problems are being dealt with. Secondly, screw Tyson Foods. That would be this Tyson Foods:

Tyson Foods has forced thousands of workers into the cold and onto picket lines at the company’s plant in Brooks, Alberta. About 2,300 UFCW Canada Local 401 workers at the Lakeside Packers plant had no other choice but to strike on October 12, 2005, after the company rejected a provincial mediator’s contract agreement. Workers are asking for basic human rights and safety protection on the job, but have only been met with violence and racism on the picket line.

These workers, many of them refugees from Sudan and Somalia and immigrants from Nigeria, have been attacked on the picket line and subjected to racist jeers. Three were sent to the hospital after being beaten and left writhing in a ditch beside the road. The Local 401 president was also hospitalized when his car was run off the road by Tyson officials, who have since been charged with dangerous diving.

And, just in case you're wondering how bad things could be in a factory in Alberta in 2005, here's another excerpt, from that report:

Godwin Iwanegba, a Tyson employee, illustrates the fight for dignity when he says, “I begged to use the washroom and my boss said 'No', so I ended up wetting myself and standing in my own urine for the rest of the work shift. Later I was disciplined for filing a complaint about what happened.”

For more than a decade, Tyson Foods has operated Lakeside Packers with some of the highest injury rates of any industrialized plant in North America. Many workers have been seriously injured and over the years, scores of workers have been left with permanent injuries and disabilities from working the Lakeside line. The company has refused to agree to a fair contract, leaving workers with the bleak choice of having to strike or return to work at a reprehensible workhouse that has chewed through 100,000 workers over the last 10 years.

Fortunately, the strike did get resolved more-or-less happily. Nonetheless, it'll be awhile before I, and a whole lot of other Albertans, are really ready to put up with any moaning from Tyson Foods on the subject of their bottom line.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ignore The Scaffolding

The switchover to the new Blogger yesterday seems to have gone just fine, so this afternoon's mission is going to be to update the template. One thing that this is going to do blow away all the links on the sidebar, at least in the short term. I'm going to take this opportunity to do a bit of dead link housecleaning. Anyway, if I've linked to you, and you see that that link is missing, don't worry - it'll be back very soon, although possibly not today.

Oh yeah, and we're going to have labels. Lots and lots and lots and lots of labels.

In the meantime, in lieu of actual content, I'll leave you with a video:

Update!: Construction continues apace, but I'm going to call it an evening at this point. I did warn you about the labels...

Further Update!: The labels are now being brought under control!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Ripped from the headlines edition...

Zeus devotees worship in Athens
By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Worshippers who believe in the 12 gods of ancient Greece have held a ceremony at the Temple of Zeus in Athens.

Well, I confess to mixed feelings about this. Understand, I have absolutely nothing against the concept of people worshipping the ancient Greek gods, so long as they do it correctly. In fact, I think it's a rather nice idea, and I fully commend the Greek courts for recognizing the religion officially, despite the grumpiness of the Greek Orthodox Church on the subject:

The president of the Association of Greek Clergymen, Father Efstathios Kollas, has described the followers of the Olympic gods as a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion who wish to return to the monstrous dark delusions of the past.

That's a very silly attitude, if you ask me. Anyway, what I do have a bit of a problem with is the concept of holding ceremonies at the actual Temple of Zeus in Athens.

The aforementioned temple - click to enlarge

My worry is that there is significant potential for damage to the site, if people aren't careful. That building is 2500 or so years old, and has not been maintained in the meantime, at least not until recently. Such structures do not, generally, respond well to being put back into use, as the curators of Stonehenge can testify. Anyway, hopefully the Greek Ministry of Culture is keeping a close eye on this.

And now, skipping lightly across most of a sea, an ocean, and a millenium or two, we have this interesting discovery from the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick:

600-year-old canoe found
January 25, 2007

SAINT JOHN, N.B. —Storms usually sink boats, not bring them back to life.

But it took a tempest to release a link to Canada’s pre-European past from its prison beneath a salt marsh on New Brunswick’s Acadian Peninsula.

Ella and Jean-Claude Robichaud of Val-Comeau, N.B. were walking on the beach in the summer of 2003 when they discovered a dugout canoe that experts have determined was carved by aboriginals 600 years ago.

Not much to say about this yet, but I will post pictures of the boat if and when I can find any!

And, we're back, and everything seems to have gone ok!
It's Time...

I'm going to be switching this puppy over to the new blogger this afternoon, hopefully. Friday Archaeology Blogging will be along this evening, assuming the changeover works like it's supposed to.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I now have access to a scanner!

Here is a picture of garter snake. I took it (the picture, not the snake, who as far as I know still roams free).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Bruce Peninsula garter snake - Click to embiggen

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wreckers, Past & Present

Good to see the old traditions being upheld:

Scavengers take washed-up goods

Police are patrolling beaches in Devon where members of the public have been taking goods washed ashore from stricken container ship MSC Napoli.

Hundreds of people have made off with valuable hauls from some 40 containers which drifted onto Branscombe beach.

This is not a new practise in the counties of south-western England, where "wreckers", as they have known, have been at work for centuries, "salvaging" material from shipwrecks. Wreckers have even been suspected, over the years, of encouraging shipwrecks by trying to lure passing ships onto the rocks. An old sailors' prayer reveals something of the wreckers' reputation:

My grandparents used to live in Cornwall, and there were many pubs around the area with stuff hung on their walls (including, in one instance, a piece of armour plating from a Royal Navy destroyer) which, technically speaking, belonged to other people. Anyway, I gather there are now a number of people in the Southwest of England who are the proud owners of new, somewhat wet, BMW motorcycles.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Napoleonic Edition.

The Island of St. Helena

So, some buzz in the papers this week over this story:

Cancer killed Napoleon, study affirms
Researchers disprove decades-old myth that the French emperor was poisoned
Randy Boswell, CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An international team of researchers, including two Canadians, has added a new twist to the mystery surrounding the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, the famed French emperor alleged to have been murdered by arsenic poisoning during his exile on the island of St. Helena in 1821

An interesting piece of medical archaeology here. The team examined the original autopsy report, and compared it to more recent reports of gastric cancer. They also, somewhat bizarrely, studied Napoleon's pants, determining that he'd lost a considerable amount of weight shortly before his death, which is a common symptom of stomach cancer.

So, did they make their case? Well, sort of. Assuming, and it is an assumption, that the original autopsy was accurate, it does appear that Napoleon was suffering from a massive lesion in his stomach, one that was too large to be a mere ulcer. Furthermore, the autopsy recorded very little evidence to support the theory that he was poisoned with arsenic. The study did not address the tests performed in 2001 that found traces of arsenic in a sample of Napoleon's hair. However, that study assumes that the hair sample was in fact Napoleon's, and that the arsenic could not have got there post-mortem. In the end, this recent study does seem more-or-less convincing (interestingly, nobody really seems interested in the possibility that he was being poisoned with arsenic while suffering from stomach cancer).

Some people, however, were unimpressed:

Montreal businessman Ben Weider, an avid collector of Napoleonic artifacts and a leading advocate of the theory that Napoleon was poisoned during his exile at St. Helena, has dismissed a previous study by Alessandro Lugli -- which also concluded that cancer was the culprit -- as "hogwash."

And yesterday he dismissed the latest theory as nothing more than "the ridiculous speculation of ignorant doctors."

"The French Historical Society wants to discredit me because I am a Canadian who manufactures bar bells," Weider told the Montreal Gazette. "The French are funny. It's tough for them to accept the truth from someone like me.

Oddly enough, the study wasn't conducted by the French at all, but by a joint Swiss-American team, with participation from some other countries. Anyway, Weider's statements put me in mind of an article I read some time ago in Archaeology magazine about the phenomenon of so-called "crackpot" archaeology. The article, which I was unable to locate online, suggested that there were a number of traits which would identify a particular archaeological theory as absurd. Among them was the fact that proponents of such theories will react to any criticism of the theory with immediate accusations of conspiracy. Mr. Weider seems to have that one down in spades.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Was It Just Last Week...

...that we were discussing the poetic stylings over at Conservative Life? It was. And now, visitors to that site are greeting with this stark message. They will be truly mourned, especially if shamus11 decides not to post his poems on the new boards.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Update your links!

Donkey O.D. has moved to http://donkeyod.wordpress.com/. Update your links, and then go over and say "Hello!" Or do it the other way around, if you so choose.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Archaeology Frustration

Well, I had an excellent idea for today's FAB, involving maps and the evolution of poor neighbourhoods in London, and it flat-out hasn't worked (ye gods, online maps are difficult to work with). Anyway, I'm going to try it again tomorrow.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Because We Can't Spend All Our Time Worrying About Our Nearest Neighbours' President Goin' All Fascist On Us...

My sister sent my a link to this story. It's very sweet.

Sample photograph from the article:


So apparently George made a speech. One in which he announced, to the resigned dismay of anyone with even the faintest glimmering of a fucking clue, that he was going to feed another 20,000 or so young Americans to his imperialist ambitions in Iraq. This time, however, there appears to be a bit of a backlash against the appalling stupidity of the American president. So, what now? Well, Molly Ivins has an answer, and I draw your attention to the last paragraph of her column:

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

Good stuff. Particularly as it is becoming clear that the coming months are going to be somewhat of a watershed for our friends to the south, particularly as regards their political system. Essentially, the man who once famously said "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier - just so long I'm the dictator" seems to have decided to go beyond mere wishful thinking. How else can you explain Bush's deliberate snub of the advice of his top generals and the committee which had been struck for the sole purpose of giving him advice on Iraq? The level of petulance speaks of a man who is deeply emotionally invested in getting his own way.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blizzardy Goodness

Well, I don't know if it actually qualifies as a full-fledged blizzard, but man the weather is awful today. Cold, snowy, and windy, with a side order of people running into each other in cars.

Monday, January 08, 2007


The William McGonagall of the right has arrived! It'd been awhile since I checked in with the deep thinkers at Conservative Undeath, and I'm pleased to say that the cultural content of the place has improved markedly. They now have a resident poet! Going by the handle "shamus11", he subscribes to the "fuck-the-metre-so-long-as-it-rhymes" school of poetry, and some of his stuff is pure gold.

Our man on Muslim immigration:

Absolutely no one can stop the incoming Islamic tide,
They have Charter Rights too and are along for the long ride,
We’re caught in political correctness with mosques in the sky,
You don’t remember prohibition when everything was dry.

Flying mosques... interesting. Anyway, here he goes on welfare mothers:

Lifetime carefree career with free apartment and no rent,
No parking, security or hydro problems to torment,
And lots of boyfriends to help make even more welfare babies,
Enlarge the welfare check for these single welfare ladies.

And one more, sample, here's his poetic take on being welcoming to newcomers:

And if you meet a refugee down at your local bar,
Ask if he/she is an AIDS refugee before you go too far,
Without referendums or recall, there’s nothing you can do,
If you or someone you know catches AIDS because of a screw.

Brings a tear to my eye, it does. Anyway, never fear, there's much more than just the little sample I've given you here, and he's showing no signs of stopping!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Yes, I know it's just a gesture, but still...

Colosseum lit over death penalty

Rome has lit up the arches of the Colosseum to highlight Italy's support for a global ban on the death penalty.

Italy launched its campaign in the wake of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's execution, which sparked widespread protest among Italians.

Well done the Italians, I say!
Greatest Hits!

After some gentle prodding, awhile ago, from Alison over at Creekside, I have finally gotten off my lazy ass and put up some sidebar links to things I've scribed in the past. I'll be putting more up in the coming days. I've divided these treasures from the vaults into three sections: Friday Archaeology Bloggings, Political Stuff (mostly snide comments about politicians), and those posts where I flew off the handle in exciting and often foul-mouthed ways. Suggestions for additions to the lists are welcome!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Roman Lamp Edition.

I warn in advance that this will be a fairly lazy edition of FAB, but it will have lots and lots of pretty pictures. Some of the pictures can be clicked on to get a bigger version. Anyway, Roman lamps! Generally made of either terracotta or bronze, they were usually fueled by olive oil (which must have smelled just lovely, but anyway...). The fuel was inserted into the reservoir through a hole in the top of the lamp, and an oil-soaked wick ran from the reservoir to the main opening in the nozzle, where the actual flame burned.

A Roman lamp doing its thing

The main point of interest in dealing with roman lamps is in looking at the artwork. While many lamps were relatively plain affairs,

Late Roman lamp

others were extremely highly decorated.

A couple of decorated lamps

Typical scenes on Roman lamps included gladiatorial combat,

Lamp depicting a victorious gladiator and his opponent, from the reign of Augustus

real-life animals,

A 2nd-century A.D. lamp depicting a cockerel

mythical animals,

Pegasus depicted on a Roman lamp

religious scenes,

A lamp depicting Lilith. The hand stamped on the bottom of the lamp is a maker's mark.

An early Christian lamp showing the Chi-Rho symbol

and, erm, "recreational activities."

Move along, nothing to see here!

Sometimes, these elements could be combined in amusing ways.

Lamp showing a scene from "The Golden Ass" by Apuleius.

In shape, lamps typically took the form shown above, with a small vertical handle, a round oil reservoir, and one nozzle. However, lamps were also made with more than one nozzle,

A gold(!) lamp with two nozzles

or in bizarre and fantastic shapes.

A Roman lamp in the shape of a foot.

There are many many more pictures of Roman lamps I could hurl up here, but this will do for now, as it gives a basic overview of the types of lamps that were out there. And, as promised, lots of pictures! Something more "substantial" next week.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

On Apologies, Weaseling Out Of

RCMP apologizes for holding suspect naked
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 | 8:45 AM NT
CBC News

Police in Labrador have apologized to a woman who was held naked in a lockup for two days last winter, and have disciplined an officer for mistreating her.

No, they haven't apologized. Behold the full glorious text of this supposed apology:

"I'm sorry she felt that she was mistreated in any way or put through any undue hardship, but certainly there was no intent," [RCMP Insp. Greg] Bursey said.

"I'm satisfied that within reason that it shouldn't happen again."

First of all, there's the issue of "I'm sorry she felt that she was mistreated." Um, yes, if one was held naked in a jail cell, without even a blanket for the first 16 hours, after a doctor had recommended that one be admitted to hospital, one would tend feel a little bit put upon. Note that the officer did not, in fact, apologize for holding her for two days in jail without clothes.

Secondly, let us turn our attention to "certainly there was no intent." What, this was a fucking accident?

Lastly, we have "within reason... it shouldn't happen again." Soooooooo, um, sticking Inuit women in jail cells for extended periods without clothing is now only going to happen a reasonable amount of the time? What the fuck?

End Rant.

You... Are... Outta Here!

Yes, well, as expected, Rona "We Mean Business" Ambrose got turfed from the Environment Portfolio today, and shuffled off to baby-sit the provincial governments via the Intergovernmental Affairs portfolio. By the way, Rona, thanks for the calendar! Indeed, the mail this morning contained a lovely 2007 wall calendar featuring pictures of, well, Rona Ambrose (no, not that kind of picture; get your mind out of the gutter!). Yes, the freakin' Minister of the Environment sent out a multi-page unsolicited vanity mass-mailing to about 40,000 households. Anyway, what of her replacement? It's this guy. My first impression is pretty much "meh." He's apparently a "rising star" in the Conservative party, whatever that means (Ed.: It means he's going to end up in intergovernmental affairs, and soon), and he shares his party's unhealthy obsession with the Liberals. Beyond that, hard to say at this time.

However, the ritual sacrifice of Rona Ambrose was not the only thing going on, cabinet-wise, today. Let's take a look at the other moves, shall we?

Rob Nicholson: from House leader to justice minister and attorney general. Ok, fine, whatever. At least Vic Toews isn't in there anymore.

Vic Toews: from justice minister to president of the Treasury Board. This is a good move, if only because it is hard to imagine a person less suited to being justice minister than Vic Toews.

Monte Solberg: from Immigration to Human Resources and Social Development. The idea of Monte Solberg and "social development" being mentioned in the same sentence is hilarious. However, he'll do less harm there than in Immigration, which requires one not to pal around with foaming racists.

Peter Van Loan: from Intergovernmental Affairs and sport to government House leader and democratic reform minister. I don't know much about this fellow, except that he seems to have close ties to the Baltic nations.

Diane Finley: from Human Resources to Citizenship and Immigration. She's been fairly quiet in parliament, although she did get up and blather against same-sex marriage a couple of times.

Harper also made Jason Kenney Dogsbody Secretary of State for multiculturalism and Canadian identity. He did this because he needed, once more, to demonstrate his unbridled contempt for Canada and Canadians in general.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Resolution: Post Here More!

So, 2007 greetings to everyone, in the hopes that you all had an excellent holiday time! 2006 is being remembered, particularly among sports fans, as a year in which a number of Canadians took home exciting awards - Justin Morneau winning the AL MVP, Steve Nash winning his second consecutive NBA MVP, and so on and so forth. However, it was not merely in field of athletic endeavour that Canadians were recognized:

The Stupidest Statements Awards" of 2006, bestowed upon famous people for their misjudgments and misstatements, have just been announced by Mega Genius, "The man with the perfect IQ." His fourth annual prizes of recognition for what he calls "crash-and-burn lapses in intelligence" by well-known personalities are just for fun.

And actually, astonishingly, the Canadian on the list is not a) Stephen Harper, b) Ralph Klein, or c) Stockwell Day! Rather, it is Mr. Guy Fornier:

3. Guy Fournier, chairman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., for his false allegation in Quebec's 7 Jours magazine, which resulted in his resignation: "[Translated] In Lebanon, the law allows men to have sexual intercourse with animals, as long as they are females. Doing the same thing with male beasts can result in the death penalty." September 9, 2006. (Mega Genius: "If I translated Lebanon's response correctly, it was an offer to treat him like a female animal.")

Thanks, Guy (with a tip o' the ol' hat to Maru).