Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Man Generates Almost No Garbage in Two and a Half Year Trash-Free Experiment

A totally splendid good day to you! I hope you are in good health today (or at least as best as can be expected, eh). Pour yourself a mug of coffee (don't use a disposable stir stick) and a virtual doughnut or muffin (without the paper lining). C'mon over here to the VIP table while I tell you about Darshan's quest to be garbage-free.

Darshan Karwat, a post-doctorate at the University of Michigan, is making headlines for having maintained an incredibly frugal and sustainable lifestyle during his student years. The man gave up fast food, new clothes, and even toilet paper, until he got to a point where his trash for an entire year fit in just two plastic bags!

Karwat, who is originally from India, started the trash-free experiment when he lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and managed to keep it going for two and a half years. In the first year, he produced only 7.5 lbs of trash, and in the second year, he brought that number down to a meager 6 lbs, which is a mind-blowing 0.4 percent of the 1,500 lbs of yearly trash produced by the average American.

Looking back, Karwat says that his inspiration to start the project came from an episode of the radio show The Story, on which he heard of a British couple who lived trash-free. “I walked home from my laboratory at the University of Michigan and told my roommate Tim that I thought I could do better – I’d live trash- and recycling-free and that I’d start soon,” Karwat wrote in an essay forThe Washington Post. “And just like that, I began an experiment in individual activism in the face of large environmental problems.”

His trash mostly consisted of a few chip bags, glass milk-bottle caps, fruit stickers, and broken glass. He obviously had to make lots of sacrifices to achieve this – he stopped buying any kind of packaged food including cheeses, only drank milk from recycled glass bottles, and gave up on buying new clothes or stuff for his home – no gadgets, furniture, or even mugs. He began carrying his own fork, spoon, plate, and a bowl everywhere he went, just to avoid plastic cutlery.

“I needed to change the way I lived, and I needed some parameters,” he told The Washington Post. “Everything apart from food scraps (which I’d compost), toothpaste and soap (which were too difficult to recover), and toilet paper, counted as trash or recycling. I collected my refuse – concert tickets, stickers, plastic tags, packaging, glass, you name it – and didn’t throw it away.”

“I had to get creative,” he added. “When a restaurant furnished a napkin-wrapped fork and knife, I asked the server to change them for cutlery without the napkin. I’d remember to say “No straw!” after asking for water and to make sure the veggie burger I ordered didn’t come with a wooden pick holding it together. I did what I had to do, and it was awkward.”

But he did make a few exceptions. “I couldn’t always control other people’s behaviour, so junk mail wouldn’t count as my own recycling. I wasn’t going to be a bore and instruct a dinner-party host on how to reduce trash. And if someone gave me a gift – a token offered from the heart – I accepted it.” He also separated his requirements of single-use materials at his lab, from his personal habits at home.

Although Karwat didn’t give up toilet paper initially, five months into the experiment he realised that he’d have to, in order to be truly trash-free. And for him, that was the biggest challenge – he admitted that it was unreasonable to give up at the beginning. But eventually managed to get over the ‘gross factor’.

“Deep-rooted in culture’s psyche is its obsessiveness with its sanitary ways, toilet paper, and paper products chief among them,” he wrote on his blog when he made the decision to stop using toilet paper. “The ecological impacts of our standards of sanitation? Hmm. And so a few months ago, I gave up toilet paper. That’s right. No ‘recycled’ toilet paper, no toilet paper whatsoever. I use a little water bottle, and… my… hand. And take it easy, I still use soap.” (That's basically how traditional toilets in Thailand work).

“It works, and it feels much better than wiping your a** with a piece of paper.” *

Giving up on so many things also meant that Karwat’s social life took a beating. Bringing his own glass to parties to avoid using paper cups wasn’t cool, but in the end, he thought it was all worth it because he was able to prove that people could follow sustainable lifestyles if they choose to. And when he looks at the big picture, he doesn’t believe his life really changed all that much.

“In many ways, though, my life didn’t change much,” he wrote. “I had grown up in a humble setting in India, where I was accustomed to consuming as little as possible. I was a member of the People’s Food Co-op in Ann Arbor, where I bought my produce unpackaged. I didn’t even have to become a recluse. Rather, my quality of life improved. I learned to be more present in my choices, and I learned what is important to me, regardless of what others think.”

Karwat believes that if he could live a trash-free lifestyle, anyone can. And he says more people should give it a try, to be able to make a dent in America’s $52 billion trash industry that produces 250 million tons of trash every year. “We don’t have to go back in time to heed environmental boundaries,” he said. “We just have to be creative. What began as a one-year experiment ultimately lasted two-and-a-half years, the rest of my time in Ann Arbor.”

*Are you old enough to remember Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg? In Jack's famous book 'On the Road', he and Allen are talking about how they washed themselves with water after using the toilet instead of using toilet paper and one of them commented that they must be the only two people in the USA with clean butts!

See ya, eh!


Comment from Cousin Robin (U.K.):

 There are thousands of level crossings in Britain.

Bob's response:

Oops! Now where did I get that information from? I shall send my research assistant to bed without supper! Turns out there are more than 6300 level crossings in the U. K.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bob's Rail Rant!

Well, hey there! I’m delighted that you took time to spiral down from cyberspace to visit my little virtual café today! Don’t you wish Vial Rail was half as fast as the cyber network? Beam me to Toronto, Scotty! Well, that may not happen for a while but I have some thoughts I’d like to share with you as soon as you pour yourself a mug of coffee and get a virtual muffin or two to munch on as I bend your ear.

This past weekend we took VIA Rail from Cornwall to Oshawa to see my sister and my Mum (to celebrate her 95th birthday). It was a good trip but we were in the second to last seats in the last car...kind of like the tail and you know how those whip around. The train was shaking side to side (as they all do and me too sometimes), making clanging noises as though some one was dropping metal pots and pans and it struck me that the rail bed could probably stand a makeover. I must plead ignorance as to how often it is looked at and how closely.

Then as we left Kingston, the conductor announced that we were travelling at a slow speed because we were following a freight train. Aha! The trouble is that VIA Rail (which originated as a combined passenger service of Canadian National Rail (CNR) and Canadian Pacific Rail (CPR) shares the rails with the freights.  

What they need is a set of dedicated passenger rail lines. (Oh, I can hear it now “The cost would be staggering!") True, it would...but it wouldn't have to be done in a day, would it? 

If the government stopped throwing money at every other country in the world that has its problems and threw it instead at things IN THIS COUNTRY that really need fixing (you know what they are...more help for seniors...more doctors and nurses and hospitals and less wait time for health services... serious help for our aboriginal people...more services for veterans and wounded warriors... and a special budget to get Canadians some decent, up-to-date, high speed rail service, etc...etc...)

Do you remember the Turbo? It was Via Rail’s attempt at a high-speed rail link between Montreal and Toronto...which is an extremely busy corridor connecting Canada’s top two populated cities and several smaller cities, universities and colleges in between.  It failed miserably  because the rail bed could not handle the speedy trains and assorted other problems such as scheduling and sharing with the freight services.

Speaking of freights, the last time we used VIA Rail, we were lucky enough to catch an earlier train which promised to deliver us to our station almost three hours ahead of our planned ETA...except that around Kingston again, we were told there would be a delay because...wait for it...there was a disabled freight ahead of us. Are you beginning to get my drift here?

Oh, there is one more piece to this puzzle...level crossings. England hasn’t had level crossings in 50 + years! Why do we still have them? Back to our trip this past weekend. We arrived on time but I heard on the news the next morning that the train from Ottawa to Toronto, which follows a rail line down to the main Montreal-Toronto line and then connects with that, had a disagreement with a car at Belleville. If we had been on a later train Sunday, we would have been caught in that mess. Thankfully nobody was killed this time but level crossings need to be gotten rid of... sure it is expensive up front to do that but one at a time, eh (pick the most dangerous ones first, right) and get it done. It will save lives and reduce to almost zero delays caused by accidents. Look at the seven (was it) killed when a VIA Train plowed into an Ottawa transit bus a couple years back because of faulty a level crossing.

Japan has its Shinkansen bullet trains that travel around 300 km an hour and they are working on 400+! These travel all over Japan and cut travel time by up to 75%  of the old time. China has the same. What about us? North America seems to be ridiculously archaic in its rail travel.

What would I do about it?

1. Dedicated rail lines for passenger travel.

2. Build a brand new rail bed designed to handle high speed trains. Start with the major corridors.

3. Hire a Japanese consulting company to tackle this. If we want the best, we need to get the best experienced help we can...and that would be from Japan.

4. Get a much more focussed maintenance program in force. Every night in Japan the trains stop at midnight. Immediately 6000 workers are out inspecting the trains, the rail lines, using the latest diagnostic equipment, making repairs and replacing rail beds, rails, signals, and rolling stock as needed. "But what about the people who need to be in Toronto early in the morning?" If we had high speed trains travelling at 300 km/hr, don't you think we could get them there quickly in the morning? 

5. Get rid of all level crossings...all of them. No more accidents. No more accident causing delays. More lives saved.

Our new federal government, together with our provincial governments could make it happen if they get their priorities straight. Helping refugees is a nice thing to do (I read where one of the ‘refugees’ entering Europe was caught with 40 + fake passports. For what purpose would that be, I wonder?) but shouldn't we be concerned with the needs of our own people first?

Rome wasn’t built in a day but as the classic joke goes, “How do you eat an elephant? Answer: “One bite at a time!” That is how a completely redesigned and rebuilt modern rail system would have to proceed : “One bite at a time!”

Speaking of these pachaderms, you could call them Very Immense Animals, right? Slow moving...plodding along the same way they did decades, even centuries ago with little change in character or speed. Sounds like another V-I-A we know, doesn’t it?

And the rant endeth here...

See ya, eh!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Man Creates His Own Country in Utah Desert

Hiya! How're you faring today? Ready for a lively mug of arabica coffee and a virtual treat? Of course you are. Help yourself Say...ever wanted to own your own country? I have...the republic of Bob. I'm still working on it. Meanwhile, here's a fellow who has done it.

Meet Zaq Landsberg, a New York artist who created the ultimate escape from hectic city life – his own country in the middle of nowhere!

It all started in 2005, when Zaq managed to acquire a two-acre piece of uninhabited land in a remote Utah desert for a mere $610. Believe it or not, he actually bought it on eBay. On his first visit to the site, he installed a red-and-yellow flag bang in the middle for future identification. Not long after that, he was struck by an idea – why not turn the area into a sovereign nation named after himself? And that’s how the nation of Zaqistan was born.

“When I bought the land, it was right after Hurricane Katrina, and it was a pretty dark time, politically, in our country,” he said. “I thought, ‘I can run a country better than these clowns.’ So I started creating something out of nothing in the desert.” And that became the nation’s official motto: “Something from nothing.”

Zaq now visits Zaqistan for a few days every year, creating artistic monuments on each visit. The nation now has a victory arch, a bed of plastic wildflowers, and a geodesic dome that had vanished for two years due to high winds. He’s also got a border patrol gate with a giant robot sentry, and sells realistic $40 passports through his website. Zaq doesn’t plan on building any cabins on the site though, because there is no water source nearby. The nearest town, Montello, is about 60 miles away.

Some of Zaq’s closest friends are proud owners of Zaqistan passports, and they occasionally visit the place to ‘hang out’. His girlfriend, Ana Fisyak, recently applied for citizenship. Although she’s a ‘city girl’ from Brooklyn, she visited the sagebrush-covered nation a couple of months ago, and apparently had a great time. “We made our own coffee, cooked rice and beans, saw plenty of scorpions, and slept under the stars,” she said. “I’d never seen the Milky Way before and that was incredible. It would be nice to have a porch and some rocking chairs – we’d be all set then. With beautiful sunrises and sunsets, that’s all we really need.”

But she’s quick to admit that she’d never live there, even if her application does go through. “It’s like being on the moon,” she said. Well, actually it’s more like Mars – hot, windy, red, and rocky – so much so that NASA had the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) set up in the area, where researchers dressed in space suits live in isolation to experience life on  the red planet.
“It’s an extremely remote and inhospitable place,” added Michael Abouzelof, another Zaqistan passport holder. “There’s no reason anyone would want to be there. “When I looked at the bushes, I just thought, wow, mad props to this guy for pulling this off.”

“It’s pretty harsh,” Zaq agreed. “Incredibly hot during the day, cold at night, with gale force winds that come in occasionally. I’ve grown to like it, but it’s about as far away as you can get.” But that hasn’t stopped him from spending $10,000 on ‘improving’ the nation. 

“My ultimate goal is for Zaqistan to one day become a legitimate country,” he added. He does pay property taxes every year, so officials say that what he’s doing isn’t illegal. But they can’t fathom why he’d want to make such a barren piece of land his nation. “As this two-acre experiment continues, I urge President Landsberg to adopt baseball as his country’s national pastime,” Congressman Ron Bishop, whose district Zaqistan comes under, joked. “The great sport of baseball has served America well, and it can do the same for Zaqistan. Few sports can unite the people of a fledgling nation like America’s pastime.”

Zaq, on his part, welcomes questions about his motive behind going rogue. And his response is simple: “There is no legal standard for what is a country and what is not. I would describe Zaqistan as a de facto sovereign. The government isn’t recognising Zaqistan sovereignty, but they’re not stopping me from doing my thing out there.”

“Nobody has hassled me,” he added. “And one reason is because things are so spread out. I own a speck of desert in this vast desert where there’s no one. They’d have to find me first.”

“Zaqistan is here to stay and it will be here for a very long time.”

Bus tours to Zaqistan begin Wednesday. I hope the tent hotel is up by then.

See ya, eh!


Sunday, November 22, 2015

World’s First Automobile Vending Machine

What? Buy a car through a vending machine? You're kidding me, right? Hey there... a treat to see you as always. Fill your mug, snag a virtual muffin or pastry and bring them over here to the VIP table so's I can tell y'all about the newest trend in the automotive world...

Thanks to used-car website Carvana, it is now possible to buy your own set of wheels at the touch of a button, from the world’s first and only coin-operated car vending machine in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s err… not cheap, but cheaper than  buying a car the old fashioned way.

The company has been working on the concept for the past two years – their original car vending machine was installed in Atlanta in 2013. But they’ve spent time on improving the design, in order to take user experience to the next level. “Our new Vending Machine is a state-of-the-art, multi-story structure that delivers our customers’ cars by merely inserting a custom coin,” said Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia.

The machine consists of a five-story glass tower that can hold up to 20 cars at a time. Inside the tower are a ‘welcome centre’, an automated delivery system, and three delivery bays. The tower basically serves as a pickup point for used cars that customers purchase through the website, enabling competitive pricing and eliminating delivery costs.

Clients can access a long list of specifications, ratings, reviews, and lots of other details about the cars they’re interested in on the Carvana website. They even get virtual tours that point out every nick and scratch on the body of the car. Once the car is chosen and paid for, the company usually delivers the car to the customer for a seven-day trial period. This usually means that the delivery costs are worked into the price of the vehicle.

But with the Vending Machine, customers are able to go pick up their cars straight away. It’s a win-win model that allows Carvana to cut down on staff and overhead, and save customers about $2,000 as well. According to the company, it also makes for a great buying experience – placing an oversized coin in a slot and watching their car roll down automatically.

“Carvana’s mission is to create a better way to buy a car, and this new Vending Machine will be a one-of-a-kind experience that mirrors just how simple and easy we’ve made it to buy a car online,” Garcia said. He added that the company plans to build more car vending machines in the future.

Well how about that, eh! Never had such high-falootin' nonsense in my day! I the heck can you kick the tires?

See ya, eh!


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Selfie Stick Self-Defense Classes

Had to happen, didn't it? Hey...thanks for clicking by today. Park your selfie stick by the door, pour yourself a deliciously refreshing mug of coffee and grab a virtual treat or two. Snap. Gotcha! You didn't even see me sneak around behind you with my own selfie stick and snap us munching away, did you? You have to stay on your guard...

With more and more people buckling to the selfie-stick trend, a self-defense sports school in Moscow has come up with a unique combat class where students learn to use the stick as a weapon.

“In many countries, assaults on tourists have become a frequent occurrence, and the only instrument of self-defense that travellers always carry on themselves is a selfie-stick,” the M-PROFI sports center said in an online statement. Clicking photographs on an expensive smartphone attached to the end of a stick can easily mark a person out as a tourist, making them a vulnerable target for robberies. In such cases, it only makes sense to wield the tool for self-protection.

The self defense classes are supported by a group known as the ‘Association of Safe Selfies’. “It’s time for the selfie-stick to be used for a purpose other than to take photographs,” the group’s president said, adding that self-defense methods using the tool have actually become a worldwide trend called ‘mpd-fight’, short for monopod-fight.

Becoming a proficient mpd fighter only takes five training sessions, and according to an M-POFI spokesperson, the self(ie)-defense art can be very efficient in fighting off practitioners of boxers, wrestling and mixed martial arts.

Unfortunately, mpd-fighters might not be able to use their skills in public places where selfie sticks are banned, like Disney parks and football stadiums in the United States.

How could you possibly get into trouble in a football stadium? Just because you've had a few beers and so have the 100-odd people surrounding you who are wearing the opposing team's colours is no reason to...

"Hey fellas, can we take a picture together? Got my selfie stick right here... Hey...give that back right now or I'll..."

See ya, eh!


Friday, November 20, 2015

Introducing Rex Specs – Protective Sunglasses for Dogs

Hi there! G-r-r-reat to see you! What'cha been up to since yesterday? Tell me about it over a mug of coffee and a virtual doughnut or muffin, why don't'cha? Just before you do, here's a story with more bark than bite...

A dog-loving couple from Wyoming have invented a revolutionary new product in canine care – doggy protective sunglasses. The sporty goggles are meant to shield dogs’ eyes from intense sunlight and other harmful effects that can cause eye problems. Priced at $79.95 a pair, ‘Rex Specs’ are made with polycarbonate lenses and a soft foam frame that snugly fits on the muzzle so that dogs can freely open their mouths.

Aiden Doane, 31, and Jesse Emilo, 33, said they got the idea for Rex Specs after their own dogs developed eye ailments because of extensive hiking in the mountains in Jackson, Wyoming. Their German Shepherd got Pannus – an eye inflammation caused by UV rays, while their fair-skinned husky suffered from chronic sunburn around the eyes. The couple realised that protective gear could have prevented the ailments, but they couldn’t find high-quality goggles specially designed for canine use.

“The options for eye protection at the time didn’t stay in place, or offer a large field of view,” Doane said. “This was discouraging when we took the dogs into the mountains for the adventures they love – so we started making our own goggles for them out of materials we had around the house.”

That’s how they ended up creating Rex Specs, a product that effectively protects the eyes from sunlight, dust, and strong wind. It has round lenses for a full range of view and straps that hold the glasses firmly, yet comfortably, in place.  Less disciplined dogs might take time to get adjusted to Rex Specs, and may even try to shake the glasses off, but with time and training, every dog can be taught to wear them.

“When introduced properly, and methodically, the dog will adjust and grow comfortable with them,” Doane said. “However, to help them stay on, and in place, the strap system holds the goggles securely to their face.” The current Rex Specs models are more suited for larger breeds of dogs, weighing between 30 and 100lbs, but they’re working on a model for smaller dogs.

“Since founding Rex Specs, our goal has been to develop and provide a protective K9 eyewear that can stand up to the level of activity we enjoy with our dogs,” the company website states. The glasses have already been adopted by the US military to protect the eyes of their K9s.

Well, why not, eh? Dogs have pretty darn good vision as it is but for certain situations and as noted above, eye ailments, these sound like a good idea.

"Hey Marge, there's a dog crapping on our lawn!"

"Whose dog is it. Do you recognize the dog?'s wearing sunglasses so I don't know whose dog it is!"

See ya, eh!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Watch Out for This Virus Warning Scam!

Well, hi there! How the heck are you? I see by the coffee mug in your hand that you are ready for a mugful of brown nectar. Can I tempt you with a virtual treat as well? They are calorie, bacteria and virus free...which is more than I can say about my computer! For the past few days I have being doing battle with some malicious virus that has slowed me down to the pace of molasses going uphill in January...and that is really slow. 

For a few days until yesterday, everything was moving at a snail's pace. What normally took two minutes was taking me 20. Unbelievable! Kaspsersky couldn't catch it. I downloaded two additional free trojan seek and destroy software programs. They caught a lot of stuff but not the one that was slowing me down.

Then, yesterday, at my wits end, I got this pop-up on my computer:

“… WARNING! A VIRUS (AUTO-LOADIN.TRJN) HAS BEEN INJECTED INTO YOUR COMPUTER You must call this toll free number 1 855 6054 now. The virus (AUTO-LOADING.TRJN) is new and cannot be detected by current virus software. Failure to immediately call the number provided will result in computer failure…”

If you get this on your computer, DO NOT call the number. It is a scam. I googled the virus name and got all kinds of advice about how to get rid of it.

The best advice was this... If you have downloaded and installed any software in the last little while, go to your control panel and uninstall it. USe the date column to track any other software that may have come in unnoticed in the last month or so. Apart from the two virus-killers I installed (which I have now deleted), I also found something called WAJAM that I did not download but it must have come with something else. As soon as I uninstalled that, my computer perked up like freshly watered bean sprouts. 

It is great to have it running at speed again. With all that I do on the computer every morning ... such as create these blog posts, I need the speed.

Have yourself a virus-free day! You did get your flu shot, too, right?

See ya, eh!


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Little Free Libraries

Hi ya! Thanks for clicking by! How're you doing today? Fair to middling? Ah well...hang in there. While I've got you, help yourself to a mug of coffee and a virtual doughnut, muffin or pastry. A question for you... what are you reading right now? Anything interesting? Well read on...

Little Free Libraries are springing up across North America. Yesterday, I attended a volunteer tutors' meeting at the Tri-County Literary Council and as I was going in, Carol Anne Maloney, the lady who gives out tutor assignments was coming out with an armful of books. She was putting them in their LFL (Little Free Library).

There was a clip on the Ottawa News the other night as well about LFLs. Anyone who has a bunch of books and wants to exchange them can start their own LFL... just by putting one out on their property. Put some books in it with a note that people are welcome to take a book and/or add a book. That way, they get more books to read and so do you.

It leads to interesting conversations with neighbours, too! Want to see some interesting designs? Go to and key in 'little free libraries'. You will be amazed at the inventiveness of people.

A word of caution though. Several US municipalities are getting overly regulatory about it claiming that people have to apply for a permit to put one on their lawn (really?) or that it could interfere with fire departments or... (too much, eh!). Some Canadian municipalities have similar frustrating tendencies.

All it takes is one sour neighbour to complain to the city and whammo...they're on your case. Oh well. It is still a great idea to get more people reading and who couldn't use a little more quiet time curled up with a good book, wouldn't you say?

Want to build one of your own? Search Google for: little free library building plans

See ya, eh!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Socks That Keep Bad Foot Odor at Bay

Hey...great to see you. Thanks for dropping out of cyberspace and landing near the coffeepot in my virtual café. Help yourself to a mug of coffee and a virtual doughnut or muffin...completely calorie-free! Try one of my delicious Stilton cheese biscuits, why don't'cha? Speaking of things that could possibly smell akin to Stilton...

Thanks to a new Japanese invention, smelly, sweaty feet might just become a thing of the past. ‘Curetex’ socks, created by product design shop Muse Ricette, work as a sweat absorbent, deodorant, humidity controller, and UV block. 

The socks are made using a special Japanese paper called Washi fiber, which is believed to have antiseptic and anti-odor properties. It absorbs moisture, bacteria, and bad odor, keeping feet fresh and clean all the time.  “The socks are based on a very old traditional Japanese paper called Washi,” said product designer Aiko Yukawa. “It was used 1,500 years ago to make summer kimonos. It was found to have properties of antiseptic, anti-odor, UV block, and humidity control. It used to be mixed with other fabrics because it was so hard, but we have developed a soft fiber called curetex yam.”

“We have scientific data that proves that people’s feet won’t smell when wearing these socks,” she added. “These socks bring an end to those people who get embarrassed if their feet smell and your feet will always feel fresh and clean.”

Curetex socks come in two colors – black and dark gray – and in sizes 6-8 and 9-11. They also have individual toes, for added comfort. They are priced at $24 a pair.

Now, I have to say that I, for one, do not have smelly feet. In fact, I can only recall one person in all the people I know who has really smelly feet. I won't mention any names...but these socks could help.

See ya, eh!


Monday, November 16, 2015

Can you kill a corpse?

G'day to you mate! How ya goin? Fit for footy? (Australian for "Are you well enough to play football...or possibly go to a football match'?) Good to see you. C'mon in, pour yourself a mug of arabica coffee and snag a virtual muffin, doughnut or ANZAC cookie, why don't'cha? While we're talking about Australia, ponder this...

Daniel Darrington was spared a murder conviction in October even after admitting intentionally shooting Rocky Matskassy at point-blank range to "relieve his suffering." The Melbourne, Australia, jury decided that Matskassy, in pain from an earlier accidental shooting, was indeed already dead when Darrington shot him.

It began when Rocky Matskassy invited his landlord’s ex-lover over to stay for a weekend. It would prove to be a fateful decision.

Steven Domotor, Matskassy’s landlord, was going out of town that weekend—so Matskassy and Belinda Martin stayed up late drinking, talking, and playing music. Martin ended up staying the night, and slept on a living room recliner while Matskassy slept in his bedroom.

But the innocuous act of having a friend over didn’t sit well with Domotor. Whether or not jealousy for his former lover played a role in what would transpire is unknown. What is known, however, is that Domotor’s friend, Daniel Darrington, confronted Matskassy in the Phillip Street, Sydney home. This is where things get hazy.

Darrington admits to assaulting Matskassy. “He said … he confronted the deceased telling him to get out of his mate’s house,” said prosecutor Peter Rose. “He stated that he had assaulted the deceased by punching and kicking him in the face. He said he then told the deceased to go and clean himself up in the bathroom.”

Darrington claims that when he next saw Matskassy, he was holding a gun behind his back. He claims they wrestled and the gun accidentally discharged, ostensibly killing or nearly-killing Matskassy. Darrington says it looked like Matskassy was suffering, so he found a box of ammunition in his room and fired again into his body.

Under the law of the State of Victoria, it is still "attempted murder" because Darrington believed that Matskassy was still alive when he pulled the trigger. [The Age (Melbourne), 10-28-2015]

Huh? I think I'll have another virtual muffin and a mug of coffee and think that over. Weird world we live in, what... and I won't even mention the horrors that happened in Paris this week. Shame we can't all just get along...

See ya, eh!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thailand to slash number of foreign English teachers

Well there you are. Glad you could slash your way through the cyber jungle out there and descend on my virtual café none the worse for wear. Always a treat to see you. Just read a ‘got my hackles up’ article that I want to share with soon as you pour yourself a mugful of coffee, gather a virtual muffin or doughnut and wander over here to the VIP table. Here goes...

BANGKOK: -- Although Thailand ranked at the very bottom of the English Proficiency Index by EF, the government's next move is to cut back on hiring foreign English teachers and have Thais teach English to Thais. ( Wonderful step forward and three steps backwards!)

The Education Ministry wants to cut back on foreign teacher recruitment to slash costs and focus on giving intensive language training to the Thai teachers.

Under the "train-the-trainer" program, a group of 500 Thai teachers who teach English in government schools nationwide will take part in an intensive six-week training course taught by English specialists from the British Council.

The selected teachers, whose English must be among the best in their schools, will receive advanced instruction on teaching written and spoken English as they will be expected to be role models for other teachers in their communities, said Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, Deputy Education Minister.

There they go again...rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. Thai teachers who teach English need to learn how to pronounce English words. They also need a change in attitude. A Thai fellow I know just returned from Thailand. He has a Thai friend there who is an English teacher but after watching her teach, he told her “You are teaching English all wrong!” She said, “No, that is the way we teach.” Unfortunately many Thai teachers of English are pig-headed when it comes to changing their instruction method. They believe they are right and no one... especially a native speaker... can tell them otherwise. Unless that stubborn resistance and proper training is given to ALL Thai teachers of English, the national ranking will fall even lower than third from the bottom in Asia...and, as a teacher, I have to say that that is very detrimental to making any progress in ESL proficiency. The children deserve much better than they are getting in Thai schools. 50 + students in a class does not help matters either.

Being 'among the best Thai teacher of English in a school' means nothing and six weeks of ‘intensive training’ is going to do absolutely nothing to change the way Thai teachers teach their subject.  I can remember from my first year teaching English in Thailand, a Thai English teacher who came into the Teachers’ Room one day very proud to have completed her BA in English. Trouble was...she couldn’t put an English sentence together to save her life. I don’t know what they taught her during her 4 year program but it was woefully inadequate. They don’t know any better. That’s the way it has always been done! 

This is the same Education Ministry that, a few weeks ago, decided to reduce the number of academic hours students receive on a daily basis so they could participate in more extra-curricular activities. After spending 14 years teaching in Thailand, I can only feel sad for students when I hear misguided leadership like this. If the government wants to do something constructive and really improve the English proficiency of the millions of Thai students, they need to take a serious look at every Thai university program that purports to train Thai teachers how to teach English. To earn a teaching degree or a BA in English, every student should be required to reach IELTS Level 7.0 (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL  90 (Test of English as a Foreign Language 90 (incl. writing 25 and speaking 25). One of these is what international students need to qualify to attend an English language university such as University of Waterloo here in Ontario. Although overseas requirements vary, it seems to me that this should be a minimum requirement for Thai teachers of English to be able to demonstrate their competence in the language and ability to teach it. Otherwise...keep moving those deckchairs around!

I suppose it has an upside though...lots more tutorial classes for foreign teachers as Thai parents want and need their kids to learn English correctly and proficiently so they can later go overseas to university.

See ya, eh!


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cop stops Google driverless car for slow driving

Hey there! Good to see you. WASSUP? Sorting slowly through your emails are you? Yeah, me too? Coffee's hot and there's a tray of delectable virtual treats next to it so help yourself. Got a 'keep the line moving' story for you today...
Google playfully posted a photo of a motorcycle cop pulling over one of its self-driving cars on Thursday for riding along at a cautious pace.
"Driving too slowly?" the self driving car team asked rhetorically in a message that accompanied a picture on its Google+ social network page.
"Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often."
Police in Google's home town of Mountain View in Silicon Valley explained in an online post that an officer noticed traffic backing up behind a self-driving car going 24 mph on a street with a 35 mph speed limit.
"As the officer approached the slow moving car he realized it was a Google Autonomous Vehicle," the police department said.
"In this case, it was lawful for the car to be traveling on the street."
California law allows self-driving cars to operated on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or slower.
The officer did chat with the occupant of the car about impeding traffic, according to police.
Google caps the speed of its self-driving cars at 25 mph for safety reasons.
"We want them to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighbourhood streets," Google said of the speed cap on it driverless cars.

"After 1.2 million miles of autonomous driving (that's the human equivalent of 90 years of driving experience), we're proud to say we’ve never been ticketed!"
Bring that car up here in February, I dare you!
See ya, eh!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Turkey Farm Colours Its Birds for the Holidays

Gobble! Gobble! Good Day, eh! Thanks for clicking by today. Got a turkey of a story for you so fill your coffee mug, nudge a virtual treat onto your place and turkey trot over here to the VIP table. Got a story to brighten your day...

Every holidays season for the past six decades, Gozzi’s Turkey Farm in Guilford, Connecticut, has been drawing visitors young and old with its host of decorative turkeys dyed in bright hues of purple, orange, yellow and green.

Bill Gozzi, the farm’s third generation owner, says that the tradition of putting live coloured turkeys on display for visitors dates back to the 1940’s, shortly after his grandparents opened the place. It was originally a treat for neighbourhood kids, but it grew into something more, and soon visitors from far and wide started visiting the farm to see the dyed turkeys during the Holidays. “My grandmother started it years ago as a fun thing for the kids in the neighbourhood, and it caught on and just busloads of kids come now,” Gozzi said. “It’s a tradition for a lot of people. I get a lot of people saying, ‘My grandparents brought me here, and now I’m bringing my kids.'”

Every year, in the first week of November, about a dozen coloured turkeys are put in one of the front pens of Gozzi Farm, and remain on display until the place closes down on the day before Christmas. The kids seem to love them, and Gozzi says the birds enjoy all the attention as well. “Believe it or not, they become hams out there after a while. The males strut around, and the females kind of show off. They like the attention.”

Wondering how the turkeys get their bright neon colouring? You’re not the only one, but Bill Gozzi won’t say, claiming that it’s a family secret. He did mention that it has nothing to do with genetics, though. “Can’t tell you. Family secret,”. “Kids ask, ‘Is it in the egg?’ ‘Is it in the feed?’ We just let everybody use their own imagination.”

blog post on The Kitchn says that non-toxic, vegetable-based food dye is applied to the turkeys’ feathers to create the bright neon coloring and that’s it’s all topical and harmless. I don’t know how reliable this information is but, while PETA hasn’t showed up at their door, not everyone is happy to see the coloured turkeys at Gozzi Farm. Every year, the owners share photos of their coloured turkeys on Facebook, and although they always get thousands of likes and shares, they also receive some not-so-positive comments.

“They used to do this to baby chicks back in the 60’s….at the local fair. Have we not evolved at all?” one user wrote.

One thing’s for sure though, for many people, driving out to Gozzi Turkey Farm, in Guilford, to see the multicoloured turkeys has become a Thanksgiving tradition, one that’s becoming more popular every year. If you fancy a visit, the place is not too far off of I-95 on Route 1. And don’t worry about driving past it, the brightly dyed birds will surely catch your eye.

See ya, eh!