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August 31, 2010

How to get 20% Off your Rogers Bill

CANADA/TECHNOLOGY - Step #1: Call Rogers to complain about your internet bill (The number is 1-888-ROGERS1 / 1-888-764-3771).

Step #2. Complain about overcharges or billing errors on your bill, mention the fact that you've been a customer for 2 or more years. ie. I've been a customer for over 5 years.

Step #3. Don't let them talk you into taking an upgrade to your plan. Ask about going to a lower plan because you're thinking about cutting back to save money.

Step #4. When the customer service rep offers you a $10 off or 20% off for a year (but you have to lock in your account for a year) pretend to think about it a moment before taking it.

In theory people could try this with other services, not just Rogers Internet. ie. Bell Canada, Telus and other large telecommunications companies. They don't want you to start shopping around for a cheaper service so its better for them to offer you a discount in an effort to get you to stay around for the next year.

Bloody Crime Scene in Orangeville

CANADA - A 42-year-old Orangeville woman is missing and investigators are searching her bloodsplattered home and car for signs of what happened to her. Sonia Varaschin, a former nurse at the hospital for Sick Children's Hospital in Toronto, was last seen on Sunday evening.

Using tracking dogs, approx. 50 police officers, an OPP helicopter and a grid search of the region has turned up no results so far. Varaschin’s white four-door Toyota Corolla was found with its trunk and front doors wide open in an alleyway near Broadway St. Inside it was splattered with blood

Her apartment was also found splattered with blood. The car was a 5 minute walk from her apartment. Neighbours say they heard no noises coming from her home and describe her as quiet and very nice. Police are not speculating on what happened to her Sunday night when she was last seen.

Sonia Varaschin is described as 5-foot-one and 125 lbs. with brown hair and light brown streaks. Police and family members are very concerned for her safety.

Anyone with info about Varaschin’s whereabouts or details of her disappearance are asked to phone Orangeville Police at 519-941-2522 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

How to See the World on a Budget

ENTERTAINMENT - Traveling around the world (or just a specific region) isn't easy, but if you're frugal and you strategize you can do it well and affordably. Below is a list of considerations and tips.

#1. Bicycle - This is arguably the cheapest/most affordable way to travel the world and get some exercise while doing so. Due to repairs however its recommended you learn to become a bicycle mechanic and carry tools and a few spare parts.

#2. Avoiding Jetlag - Unless you stick to only one time zone the best way is to GO WEST in your travels instead of East. Most travelers have discovered its easier to stay up later than to get up earlier (which happens when you travel East).

#3. Travel Light - Only carry the necessities. Clothes should be disposable so you can avoid cleaning things along the way. Don't buy clothes to keep, wear them as long as possible and then throw/give them away after buying new clothes. That or bring clothes that is super easy to clean and durable.

#4. Airplanes are Expensive, Avoid if Possible - Unless you're super rich you're going to want to focus on the cheapest rates you can get. Flying for a discount rate or free (a la delivering a package) is even better. Budget airline tickets can be found at

AirTreks - www.airtreks.com
Air Brokers - www.airbrokers.com
World Traveller’s Club - www.around-the-world.com

Air Courier services however are highly recommended if you don't mind giving up your luggage space. Usually the price of the ticket is discounted. Free air travel is rare.

Air Carrier UK - www.aircourieruk.com

There is also:

NEW YORK
AIR CARGO PARTNERS
Phone: 516-358-2025

MICOM AMERICA
Phone: 718-656-6050

EAST WEST EXPRESS
Phone: 516-536-2112

NOW VOYAGER
Phone: 212-459-1616

LOS ANGELES
AIR CARGO PARTNERS
Phone: 516-358-2025

JUPITER AIR
Phone: 650-635-1700

SAN FRANCISCO
JUPITER AIR
Phone: 650-635-1700

AIR CARGO PARTNERS
Phone: 516-358-2025

ENGLAND (London)
BRIDGES WORLWIDE
Phone: 0189-546-5065 International: 011-44-189-546-5065

BRITISH AIRWAYS TRAVEL SHOPS
Phone: 0870-606-1133 International: 011-44-870-606-1133

AIR CARGO PARTNERS
Phone: 0208-897-5130 International: 011-44-208-897-5130

Its also really cost effective to look for budget travel wherein they're basically giving you the seat and all you have to do is pay for the taxes. You won't be getting any frequent flier miles going this way and you have to watch out for cancellations in the event they fail to sell enough seats (you will still get a refund back).

#5. An Air Pass - If you're only visiting one region of the world a cheap alternative is an air pass. For example Cathay Pacific offers a $1599 pass which allows travel to 42 Asian cities from the USA (but only from NYC, L.A. or San Francisco so you will have to get there for the first flight). Qantas, India Airlines, Aerolineas Argentinas and several other airlines have similar deals which are well worth researching. Make sure you keep track of the taxes.

#6. Last Minute Specials - You can also book on the fly and get last minute specials which are heavily discounted.

#7. Train Passes - Once you've over in Europe or Asia another smart thing to have is a train pass which allows you unlimited travel. You can sleep on the train and hopefully avoid hotels in the process too.

#8. Camping - If you can travel very light and only carry the basic necessities for camping its very cheap to do so.

#9. Visit Friends - Visiting friends (and getting a tour of the place you're visiting) is also recommended. A hot shower and homecooked food is also welcome. There are even websites dedicated towards meeting new friends overseas with the purpose of spending the night on their couch. Well worth looking into.

#10 Hostels - Super cheap, but you may have to do some chores as part of your visit.

August 27, 2010

Advertising Season Early this Year

TECHNOLOGY - If you know anything about the internet and advertising you likely know that there is an internet advertising season, namely September to December. The reason is dual-purpose.

#1. In September everyone returns from their holidays and vacations, back to school/university, back to work, etc. It means a sudden boom in internet activity whereas during the summer months people have a tendency to spend a lot of time outside and not behind a computer.

#2. The lead up to the Christmas Shopping Season begins in September. First there's the Back-to-School events, then Halloween costumes and candy, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Boxing Day shopping... and finally New Years.

However this year publishers on the internet (including our own Lilith eZine) have noticed a sudden early jump by advertisers aiming to beat the competition by purchasing their advertising for the year early, either in August or even a few as early as Mid-July.

Is this a sign that companies are becoming more confident about the economy? Maybe. Despite the dire warnings and pessimists the economy seems to steaming ahead as far as the advertising industry is concerned. Usually companies pull back on advertising spending first when they become worried about finances. Spending extra on advertising means growth for the future.

We've also noticed a jump in the number of advertisers willing to pay extra for "premium placement" of their ads. As September comes and advertisers start pushing even harder to get ahead of the competition this means we might be seeing a bumper crop this year. Maybe. We shall see.

"Don't count your chickens before they hatch."

August 26, 2010

Women's Hockey at a Crossroads

This post has been moved to CardioTrek.ca:

Women's Hockey in Canada at a Crossroads

3D TVs with no glasses

By Ai Lung Nguyen - August 2010.

ENTERTAINMENT/TECHNOLOGY - Over in Japan the Sony Corporation is working on a 3D TV that doesn't need special glasses. Toshiba is also making a similar 3D TV and its become a race to see which company can jump the cost and technological difficulties to bringing the product to market. Toshiba announced several days ago its designing a glasses-free 3D TV, but hasn't announced when they will go on sale.

Normal 3D TVs with glasses are already selling, made by Panasonic and Sony... but they have to be attached to the TV by wires and you have so sit or stand a certain distance from the TV for it to work properly.

The new 3D TVs, some already on display but not for sale, work without the glasses but still require you to be relatively close for it to work. The image quality isn't as good either.

Sony is hoping to become the number 1 supplier of 3D TVs and 3D players/recorders. They've announced plans for two 3D films and multiple 3D music videos. The new 3D Spider-Man film is due out in 2012.

James Cameron, the director and producer of Avatar, has already announced there will be two Avatar sequels. In a recent interview, Cameron stated that he plans to shoot both sequels in the planned trilogy back-to-back. The second movie will be about Pandora's rainforest and ocean, the other moons and continue following the characters Jake Sully and Neytiri.

"I expect that those nasty humans didn't go away forever," says James Cameron.

Gmail Phone Service

By Charles Moffat - August 2010.

TECHNOLOGY - I've never used Skype and never will now. Especially since Google released the ability to phone people for FREE within Gmail.

From inside your Gmail you simply click "Call Phone" on the left side inside your chatbar. If you're a first time user then you download a small program, install it and restart your browser. Then just dial the number you want to call using the dial pad on the screen.

Voila! Free calls to anywhere in Canada or the USA. Calls overseas cost a mere 2 cents per minute for calling Britain, France, Germany, China or Japan.

Skype? What's Skype? Pff.

So really what you need then is a headset with a mic attached to your computer... which fortunately I bought an HP headset recently because I was shopping with a friend and saw one on sale. Excellent timing.

Industry analysts say it will be mostly Skype (and similar online phone services) which will be put at a disadvantage because of Google's new free phone service... but I think traditional phone companies will lose some market share too. The reason is because I have NEVER used Skype or any other online phone services, but I am actually excited about being able to phone people on my new Google one... I think its because Skype seemed too... nerdy. No other way to say it. The moment Google made an online phone service it suddenly became mainstream and acceptable.

Moreso, for people like myself who have trashed the home phone and gone cellphone only it means I can save on minutes and long distance charges whenever I am at home and feel like calling family members or friends. This service doesn't work from a SmartPhone however because other Google apps have already been designed for that.

Google had previously offered computer-to-computer voice and video chat, but starting yesterday (Wednesday) it can now be used for computer-to-phone. Furthermore the overseas rates are pretty reasonable and they give you a 10 cent credit (good for a 5 minute call) so you can try it out.

Skype meanwhile (which is owned by eBay and several private firms) is planning a $100 million initial public offering on the stock market... Skype may have waited too long for its IPO. Google's new service may put a dent into their IPO now that a major player has entered the same business.

No word yet on when Google will get into the personals business. There has been rumours circulating for years of that.

See Also: Goth Personals Canada

August 25, 2010

Facebook Killer strikes again

By Ai Lung Nguyen - August 2010.

TECHNOLOGY - Police in the Colombian city of Puerto Asis originally thought it was a joke when three teenage boys had been killed in the last 10 days, and all their names were on a "Death List" found on Facebook. The original list was only the names of young men in their teens.

A new death list has since been added which includes the names of young women.

On August 15th two of the people on the first death list were found on a road outside of Puerto Asis. Ferney Diego Jaramillo, 16, and Alejandro Ruiz Eibart Munoz, 17.

On August 20th a third person, Norbey Alexander Vargas, 19, was also killed.

The names of 69 people were on the death list which gave the people on the list three days to leave Puerto Asis or else they would be killed. So far the serial killer is making good on their promise.

The second list adds the names of 31 young women, bringing the total number of people to 100. Panic has since spread through the city of Puerto Asis and families of teenagers on the list have been fleeing the city with their families. Colombian police and soldiers have been assigned to protect the teenagers who remain.

Puerto Asis is a small city of 70,000 and the local police don't know who posted the death list anonymously but are continuing their investigation to try and find links between the people on the list.

A 5 million pesos ($3,000) reward has been offered for info about who posted the Death List. Some investigators suspect narcotics traffickers are behind the deaths, but others believe it may be a teenager on some kind of revenge quest...

Or the idea could even perhaps be based off the Japanese TV show "Death Note". (In the TV show a Japanese teenager gets his hands on a supernatural book in which whatever names he writes in it they die within a minute. He can also dictate the method or time of death. He begins using the Death Note book to kill criminals but ultimately becomes corrupt himself.)

The "Facebook Killer" may have seen the show, or may simply be on some revenge streak unrelated to the show and they just want to kill people from their high school yearbook that they don't like. Or, and this is just speculation, it may be completely random people they saw on Facebook.

The real danger is if people in other locations become copycat Facebook Killers.

The Great Traffic Jam of China

CARS - A massive traffic jam in northern China is in its 11th day today due to road construction in Beijing that won't be finished until September 17th.

Some drivers have been stuck in the traffic jam for 6 days and "survivors" of the traffic jam who managed to escape say they plan to take a different route in the future.

The 10 lane super-highway has been reduced to a single lane where the construction is and the gridlock behind that point stretches off into the horizon. The Chinese government is warning people to take other routes for as long as the road construction continues.

The huge traffic jam started August 14th and its not the first time. The highway is frequently known to be congested, thanks to coal being discovered in Inner Mongolia and the Chinese government has been using that coal to make gasoline to support an ever growing thirst for gasoline-powered cars.

Its ironic therefore that this traffic jam is largely due to trucks hauling coal. Traffic volume has been increasing 40% every year on the super highway due to the demand for cheap gasoline.

Stranded drivers have been well-behaved, spending their time sleeping, walking around, or playing cards and chess. Their biggest complaint is local villagers who are selling them instant noodles, boxed lunches and snacks at extortionist rates (6 to 10 times their normal value), delivering the food via bicycles.

Another solar system discovered

TECHNOLOGY - Scientists have discovered a solar system similar to our own approx. 100 lightyears away with 7 or more planets orbiting the star. The newly discovered solar system has at least 1 planet which is roughly the size of Earth and depending on its distance from the star could support life.

Its the richest planetary system discovered so far and is part of a growing body of evidence that our solar system is NOT unique and that there is actually a lot of solar systems like our own.

Our solar system has 8 planets + 5 dwarf planets. The inner planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, plus the two gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, plus the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune. Pluto used to be considered a planet, but now has been given the term "dwarf planet" because of the discovery of several other dwarf planets in our solar system which scientists couldn't agree whether they were actually planets by definition. Our solar system has 5 dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.

In the newly discovered solar system most of the planets are quite large, but they've already found one which is approx. 1.3 to 1.4 times the size of Earth. It is far enough away from the star that if it doesn't support life already it could certainly be terraformed to support life in the future.

Scientists have catalogued 450 new planets in the past 15 years, usually they're gas giants similar to Jupiter or Saturn. Smaller planets and especially dwarf planets are more difficult to spot because of the amount of light given off by their parent stars.

Lilith News' 900th Post

TECHNOLOGY - You'd think we'd get tired after 900 blog posts, but the truth is we're growing stronger.

Regular followers and fanmail, its nice to know people enjoy what we offer in the way of news and commentary.

Of course not everyone agrees with what we have to say. Scumbag Peter Nygard and an alleged rapist/fraud artist whom-we're-currently-not-allowed-to-say-his-name-because-he-is-threatening-to-sue-us don't exactly like us, but hey the feeling is mutual. Somebody has to stand up to these creeps.

The beauty of news blogs is that we can show the news and simultaneously present an OPINION on the news that is happening. It becomes more like an editorial, but without the funny cartoon in the corner. The internet and alternative news media is often all about free speech and having an opinion.

Sometimes there is no need to even voice an opinion however. You just present the facts and then the reader/viewer can draw their own opinion. Other times having an opinion on the matter might be considered bad taste, like in the case of an obituary. If the person wasn't particularly well liked it might be kosher to say "Good riddance!", which is something a newspaper wouldn't do.

Last year when Michael Jackson died (on June 25th 2009) we didn't post an obituary because frankly we didn't have a lot of nice things to say about him. When we did finally post something it was about Michael Jackson's art collection and we waited until April 2010.

We will all miss the allegations against Michael Jackson and his courtroom antics.

We could, in theory, kowtow to the people who still insist that Michael Jackson was completely innocent and that his love of children was just one of his oddities.

Sure, and Pope Benedict really cares about abused children. See Pope ignored molestation of children.

These days you can't keep anything a secret. There's usually a camera or a video camera watching people, and failing the availability of electronic devices nearby there's always the potential for someone to blab the truth to the media. Like these videos below of a fire tornado in Brazil, an UK woman dumping a cat in a garbage bin or a confrontation between Christians and supporters of same-sex marriages:








Exposing the harsh brutality of the world isn't something we enjoy. We'd much rather talk about good news, but we feel compelled to tell the good with the bad so that people are getting the whole picture.

Like the USA using chemical weapons against civilians in Afghanistan. The horror of burning white phosphorous as it rains down on a village can only be captured on camera and even that pales to the real horror that happens to the people caught under it.



But there's always hope. Its humanity's natural reaction to reject tyranny and unfairness, to strive towards some ideal of utopianism. We may not all agree on what utopia should be, but we are instinctively drawn to perfect the world around us.

On a positive note we leave you with the following cartoon:

August 23, 2010

Kemonozume & Bamboo Blade

By Ai Lung Nguyen - August 2010.

ENTERTAINMENT - If you enjoy Japanese animation (commonly referred to simply as "anime") then two shows you might enjoy are Kemonozume and Bamboo Blade. We shall start with the latter because its more family-friendly. (See More Anime Reviews.)

Bamboo Blade is a show about a high school kendo team. Most of the team is female, but gender isn't really the issue in this show. Nor is it about girl power either. If anything its just a good wholesome show about friendship. We admit that sounds a bit drab and boring, but for some reason Bamboo Blade does it really well without annoying the viewer. The regular action sequences of kendo fighting are also pretty impressive... and anyone watching the show will feel inspired to want to try kendo themselves. Its just that good of a show.



Kemonozume takes kendo to a whole other level... its essentially a classic samurais vs demons scenario, but with several twists. The demons are known as "Flesh Eaters" because they have a tendency to transform when they get excited or angry and then eat whoever is nearby. The main character falls in love with a female Flesh Eater who is struggling to control her demonic tendencies and they run off together. Unfortunately their love life is strained because she can't get too excited because otherwise she will transform into a demon and eat him. Toss in a mysterious little monkey, a few robotic mechs, some wacky graphics and occassional nudity and you have a show which makes Mad Men look like a cheesy soap opera.



And the good news is that you can watch both these shows for free just by searching Google Videos. The music for the two shows above are also surprisingly good.

Canada needs to keep Long Gun Registry

By Charles Moffat - August 23rd 2010.

CANADA - 78% of all guns seized in crime busts are long guns, either rifles, shotguns or assault rifles. The Canadian Long Gun Registry, according to police chiefs across Canada, has been incredibly valuable in tracking these weapons and determining who has been selling these guns illegally to criminals.

It is true that handguns are used in a lot of crimes, but when it comes to police seizures what they've discovered is that criminals often have a large arsenal of weapons and rifles. (Author's note: I personally have a collection of airsoft and BB guns, but thankfully those are perfectly legal and just for target practice.) Thus even though people don't typical rob a place with a M4A1 assault rifle, that doesn't mean such weapons aren't being used in other crimes (such as whacking a rival drug dealer or mafia kingpin) and need to be tracked.

Canada's police chiefs have launched a large public relations campaign in support of the federal long-gun registry the Conservative government is trying to scrap. The recent meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in Edmonton concluded with a drafted report in which police chiefs state they want to set the record straight aboud the registry and that Conservative government is lying and creating misinformation about the effectiveness of the Long Gun Registry.

The report was supposed to be presented by RCMP Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak, but he was transferred from his post and ordered to take French language lessons as a punishment for supporting the Long Gun Registry. The Conservative government wants to get rid of the registry and isn't taking no for an answer, firing or transferring anyone who gets in their way. RCMP Commissioner William Elliott and Prime Minister Stephen Harper both denied Cheliak was removed because of his vocal support of the long-gun registry. The sudden switch to French lessons however suggests its definitely a punishment.

"Its a little frustrating quite frankly, because there's a lot of ideology mixed up in this," says Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is also president of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs. The registry only costs a mere $4 million per year to operate and scrapping it would be silliness. "I think a lot of resentment around the gun registry comes from historical concerns [from] when the registry was set up."

The Long Gun Registry was first setup in 2002 under Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Conservatives have been trying to scrap it ever since. A Conservative MP has tabled a private member's bill to scrap the registry and will be voted on in the Autumn.

Canadian police chiefs and police organizations across Canada say they support the registry and that its a valuable tool in assisting officers in doing their job of tracking down stolen or illegally sold firearms.

Author's Story: In 1992 I was walking across a farmer's field with my best friend and my little sister when a car pulled into the laneway near the barn. A man got out, pulled out a shotgun and started shooting at us. We ran for the treeline and jumped the fence. We thought we were safe when the final shot went whizzing less than a foot past my left ear. I now have permanent hearing damage. The man got in his car and drove away. We have no idea who he was because it was not the owner of the farm. It was just random redneck who apparently thought it would be fun to try and kill some children.

We have gun registries for the same reason we have license plates. It makes it a lot easier to track down the criminals.

See Also
Gun Control in Canada

Guerrilla Art in Toronto

ART HISTORY/CANADA - A group of Canadian activists and artists made history this past weekend, ripping down illegal advertising and putting up art instead.

The group of 16 people are TOSAT, short for Toronto Street Advertising Takeover. Armed with little more than an electric screwdriver, duct tape and a stepladder they dismantled illegal ads by "Pattison Outdoor" and replaced the ads with artwork which had been submitted from countries around the world including Spain, Germany, the USA and Canada.

Yesterday, in teams of 2 or 3 the group replaced 85 illegal ads on 41 pillars with public art, part of their "Public Ad Campaign" in which their goal is to replace illegal ads with guerrilla art for the masses.

“Public space should be a place for public communication,” says Jordan Seiler, founder of the group. “I feel like I have a right to react against (advertisements) when, in particular, they’re done illegally.”

The Pattison Outdoor ads are essentially pillars which were installed in public locations by the company, but without asking for permission and without paying the appropriate city taxes. Toronto’s billboard laws require an annual billboard tax ranging from $850.68 to $24,000, which adds $10 million per year to the city budget.

Pattison Outdoor's non-compliance with the law and the tax, combined with the fact they were installing the pillars in the middle of the night without authorization or permits, is why their pillars were targeted by the activist group.

Toronto has been super lax about actually enforcing the law. City councillor Adam Vaughan claims the city is on top of the issue, but frankly that is just rhetoric on his part. The city is annoying slow at fixing potholes and getting around to removing illegal advertising isn't considered a high priority.

But for the activists enough was enough. It was time for them to go.

Local residents are pleased with the art which replaced the ads. Its so much better to see something intelligent and interesting that isn't trying to sell you something.

Horse racing a dying sport

ENTERTAINMENT - While bullfighting continues to thrive overseas, a different sport in North America is starting to die out: Horse racing.

Which is ironic because the jockey's don't even kill the horses when the race is over. That would be silliness.

No, what's dying is the North American audience and the amount of people who are betting. U.S. and Canadian thoroughbred horse racing has seen a huge decline in attendance in the past 15 years and even the addition of slot machines, casinos or "racinos" have not slowed the decline of people.

Part of the problem is internet gambling and poker dens. Race tracks across North America have seen a steady decline in both attendance and betting totals. Profits are way down and even horse auction values are hurting. There's simply too many race tracks and not enough people coming out to the race track willing to throw away their money.

Lets take the Hanover Raceway for example, which is 3 hours north west of Toronto. Its the only racetrack for 100 km and visitors from all over the region go there... but there's a difference... they only have live races one night per week, Saturday, and the racing season is approx. 7 months of the year. In 1995 the Hanover Raceway had races on Wednesday nights and Saturday nights, but those days with the record crowds are long gone.

These days you can just stay at home and gamble online instead. Going out to the horse races is too much of a hassle. A lot of the customers who still come out are in their 60s, 70s and 80s... the customers who are there for the spectacle of the race track, only bet $2 on every race and aren't that worried if they win or lose.

The die hard gamblers (you know the ones who lose their mortgage, their house and their wife and kids leave them) are becoming more scarce. Not because they're quitting and getting counselling for their gambling addiction, but really because they're not being replaced with a crowd of younger gamblers. All the younger gamblers are either playing videos games, gambling online or finding some other way to waste their extra cash.

These days its so much more logical to spend your money on something that will SAVE you money later. ie. A more efficient engine for your old car, improving your gas mileage and performance. Or solar panels for your home, reducing your electricity bill. Or buying a home gym and then cancelling your gym membership. Why gamble your money away when you can use it to save more money in the future?

Horse racing profits in the USA was also hurt by the recent "Great Recession". This year alone the amounts wagered have dropped 7% in July, which is one of the busiest times of the year for horse wagering. Comparatively from 2003 to 2009 betting totals dropped 19%.

Auctions of race horses dropped 32% in value in 2009.

And there's more changes on the horizon. Gambling on SmartPhones is coming soon and that will mean people won't even need the internet at home to gamble. They can gamble on the subway on the way to work, gamble while waiting for friends at a pub, gamble at their convenience.

Eventually the horse races and wagering on them will go the way sculling wagering. In the 1900s it was all the rage to go out and bet on men's sculling (rowing). Then, like now, there was organized crime and people sometimes tried to rig the race. Canadian rower Ned Hanlan for example took the World Title in 1880 and defended it successfully for 7 years. Betting on sculling races eventually died out... and someday betting on horse races (at least professionally) will have to dwindle.

Eventually there won't be enough old people there to support the sport of horse racing. Race tracks will have to be shut down and turned into something else. ie. Resorts for equine lovers. Its a bit like horse polo, who the heck plays that any more?

August 22, 2010

China's Unfinished Business

By Ai Lung Nguyen - August 2010.

ENTERTAINMENT/POLITICS - Its only a matter of time before Hollywood producers realize the potential for a Hollywood blockbuster. Its been 21 years since the Tianenmen Square Massacre and nobody, not a single movie has been made about the historical incident. Oh sure, there's been documentaries, but there's never been a dramatization of what happened.

Thus the story of the approx. 10,000 protestors who were brutally massacred has been kept largely silent. Likewise the story of the young man who stood in front of the tanks while the world press watched.

Afterwards the Chinese government locked down and censored all mention of the event, to the point that many people living in mainland China either don't know about the infamous massacre or they think its a myth.

Its a story worth telling. And whichever producer and director tackles the topic first and does it well will probably have Oscar nominations coming their way... and earn the ire of the Chinese government...

In which case the job of producing and directing such a film should probably be given to someone who already has a career in the dumps, but has shown remarkable ability to direct and produce films... someone who likes bloody massacres... Mel Gibson.

Its just a thought. Maybe someone else will beat him to the punch.

In other news China's economy has been growing about 10% every year for the last three decades. Some economists are speculating that kind of economic steampower has to run out eventually, but they're forgetting a very important aspect of China and neighbouring India. Together China and India are the most populated region on the planet and money (in this case massive economic wealth) often goes to where the people are because they become manufacturing centres.

China's rampant manufacturing sector is growing so fast the Chinese government can't even keep track of it all. Hundreds, if not thousands, of companies are operating illegally under the radar and producing cheap knock-offs and counterfeit goods.

Now it is true that China's economy has to cool down eventually, but that doesn't mean it will happen during this century. It could be 90 years before China's red hot economy finally slows down a bit. And frankly, whats wrong with fast economic growth? Sure, it causes inflation to go up at a faster rate, but Chinese goods are so undervalued already that a little extra inflation is a good thing.

The 19th century was the European century, the 20th was American, all signs point to the 21st century belonging to Asia (especially China and India). Latin America and Africa will certainly be improving, but currently lack the manufacturing and the population to become huge industrial centres. Although it should be noted Mexico's economy may someday dwarf the USA's economy if they can ever solve their drug problem.

Forecasting superpower or megapower status is tricky however. In the late 19th century people thought Russia, Brazil and Argentina were destined for greatness, but the USA surprised every one.

Canada too has seen rapid growth, but it should be noted there are parts of Canada where people still live in 2nd or 3rd world conditions. Back in the 19th century the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once predicted Canada would become “the new Russia.”

To some extent China's rise to economic greatness has been long delayed. Back in 1820 and prior to that China was the world's largest economy, responsible for one-third of the global GDP. But during the 19th century China became mired in bureaucratic corruption, the Opium Wars and was invaded by other nations. It wasn't until the economic reforms of 1979 that China was finally able to boost its economy at a quicker pace.

Since then China has unleashed an unprecedented industrial revolution, one that has achieved such fast growth that some economists now worry about sustainability. Especially when you consider China is exporting so many things overseas to markets which are struggling to compete with China's low wages.

The Great Recession put a slight crimp in China's exports, but 'Buy American' campaigns historically haven't worked very well because many poor Americans can't afford to buy local when products from overseas are so much cheaper. Companies like Wal-Mart aren't helping at all because 99% of the things they sell are made overseas.

So as other economies collapse because factories are gradually being shut down in favour of cheaper labour in China, the world economy is essentially on the move. Wal-Mart alone made $408 billion USD in profit in 2009.

Compare that with the USA's trade deficit with China for 2009: $226.9 billion USD. The USA's total trade deficit was $600 billion USD for 2009. To put that in perspective its a bit like every single American is giving away $2,000 per year to foreign countries.

What you realize therefore is that if the USA cut out stores like Wal-Mart, the American economy would suddenly start booming again instead of shipping all of its money over to Asia.

China can't afford to keep bleeding the USA dry. If America's economy collapses China will go with it, so the only solution is for China to build up its domestic market so that Chinese people are buying Chinese-made goods, and likewise America needs to do the same thing (Americans buying American-made goods).

China is the world's biggest exporter. (Germany is 2nd.)

China is the world's biggest consumer of energy. (The USA is 2nd.)

China is the world's biggest automaker. (More than the USA and Japan combined.)

China is the world's biggest importer of raw materials, including steel and precious minerals.

The raw materials is the real Achilles heel in all this. China can only grow based upon the amount of raw materials it can import and use. Unless resource rich countries like Canada or Australia rape the countryside for every shred of material its eventually going to be curbed by not enough supply to feed China's hungry "Moloch-like" factories.

Thats not the only problem either... China is also short on people with educations who can speak foreign languages. True, they do import English teachers from overseas to help boost the speaking ability of Chinese people (English Institutes are big business in China, South Korea and Japan), but China pays peanuts compared to what South Korea, Japan and other countries are paying. There is also the issue of fluency. Its much better to hire an outsider who speaks the appropriate languages to come to China.

Bringing in and training foreigners is a difficult undertaking. China is also facing a housing problem as real estate prices in Chinese cities have soared 40% in the past decade (in theory if you wanted to invest in real estate it would be exceptionally wise to invest in Chinese real estate). The prices have spiked the highest in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Still China is a long way behind (even if you compensated for the fact the Chinese Yuan is undervalued by about 4 times) in terms of per capita income. Their standard of living would have to rise about 300% just to match the average American. Without compensating its approx. 1100%.

China is also paying for its rapid growth however... the extreme pollution in Chinese cities kills hundreds of thousands of people per year. The smog in China is outright deadly and should probably be called "Death Clouds" instead of merely smog. Its estimated smog will be killing over 600,000 people per year by 2020.

China also has an “over-dependence on investment and external demand, an unacceptably wide gap in incomes, too few social goods, and an underdevelopment of the service sector. Slow progress in anti-corruption campaigns and institutional reforms are also worrying.” according to Yu Yongding, formerly an official at China’s central bank.

Despite China's flourishing economy they also have a long list of unfinished business which need to be sorted out. Evidently China's government isn't overly worried about it.

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” - A Confucian Proverb.

Green Party = Waste of Time

CANADA/ENVIRONMENT - The Green Party is a complete waste of time. For a number of years now the Green Party has been struggling to get attention in Canada's flooded political party system. Their blip in

The Green Party will NEVER get elected. The Green Party will NEVER even form an official party because the most they can ever hope for is to win 1 or 2 seats and you need 12 to be considered an official political party in Canada. They're a complete waste of a vote, a waste of time and the mass media should be admonished for giving such a tiny party press coverage while ignoring other tiny political parties like the Atlantica Party, the Animal Alliance Party, the Canadian Action Party, the Libertarian Party, the Marxist Party, the Communist Party, the Christian Heritage Party, etc.

Even in their best year the Green Party received only 6.8% of the available votes and won ZERO seats. For them to even have a chance of becoming an official party they would need approx. 12% of the available votes.

If we were to be realistic about the matter however the real future for the Green Party is to amalgamate with the NDP and/or the Liberal Party.

During a "typical election" the following happens:

  • The Conservatives win between 30 and 40% of the votes.
  • The Liberals win between 30 and 40% of the votes.
  • The NDP gets approx. 15 to 20% of the votes.
  • The Bloc Québécois consistently gets about 10%.
  • The Green Party usually gets less than 5% (based on the last three elections).
  • About 1 or 2% of people waste their votes on the alternative parties, ie. the Marxist Party.

    Since the last election in 2008 approx. 25% of Green Party members have given up on the Green Party and conveniently forgotten to renew their memberships. The exact numbers is 3,000 of 12,000 members have basically realized they were wasting their votes.

    Green Party leader Elizabeth May had to fend off a vote against her leadership of the party yesterday. These are signs that the Green Party may be headed back into obscurity and will eventually no longer be news worthy.
  • August 20, 2010

    Market crash coming says economist

    POLITICS - A huge market crash is coming says famed economist Jim Miekka, who discovered the famous market indicator ominously called the Hindenburg Omen.

    “It looks like the probability of a decline. I would expect it would happen at the end of September, the beginning of October,” says Miekka.

    Miekka used to be a high school physics teacher but when he became blind 24 years ago he had to retire and became an economist. Using data from stock markets he created a market indicator system which accurately can predict long term major ups and downs in the stock market. Now 50 years old he publishes the Sudbury Bull & Bear Report.

    His creation / discovery of a system which can predict market crashes and rallies has since made him famous and his market reports highly respected in the field of economics. He is the economist other economists are looking to when they are drafting reports.

    His system's ability to predict a sudden market crash is the most interesting of all. The Hindenburg Omen requires:

    • The daily number of NYSE new 52 Week Highs and the daily number of new 52 Week Lows are both greater than 2.2 per cent of total NYSE issues traded that day.

    • The smaller of these numbers is greater than or equal to 69 (68.772 is 2.2 per cent of 3126).

    • The NYSE 10 Week moving average is rising.

    • The McClellan Oscillator is negative on that same day.

    • New 52 Week Highs cannot be more than twice the new 52 Week Lows.

    Basically what happens is if you get several Hindenburg Omens in a short time span that means a market crash is coming. If the omens are closer together and more frequent that means a crash may be coming soon.

    The last Hindenburg Omen was on August 12th but there are more on the way. Miekka is predicting a crash sometime in late September / Early October, but only if three or four more omens appear between now and then and only if the McClellan Summation Index drops to 1,800 or less (its currently at 3,000). Market crashes often happen in the September to November period because the Autumn is the weakest time of the year for the stock market.

    Miekka's system has been used to look back at historical crashes and its been flawlessly accurate every time. His system is backed up with precise numbers going back decades.

    However the concern is now that economists and investors know about the prediction, will his system still work?

    If the stock market becomes aligned in a precarious position, then yes. The system is designed to only predict stock market crashes when specific requirements are met.

    “The general public is almost always wrong about the markets,” says Miekka.

    Miekka also says crashes are not something to be feared. They are the economy shedding some weight and when they are over the economy bounces back with a long rally. When that happens its actually a good buying opportunity to buy stocks when they are super cheap.

    August 19, 2010

    GM to build small engines & cars in China

    CARS - General Motors has made a deal with the Chinese company SAIC to develop and design small fuel-efficient engines and transmissions with the goals of creating a mass production small car in China's ever expanding market.

    Their goal is the development of a 1.0 litre to 1.5 litre direct-injection turbocharged gas engine. Its a smaller engine, but its designed to pack a wallop of power and torque.

    China is the world's biggest auto market by the number of vehicles sold. American automakers are looking to break into the market but are hampered by China's rules that all companies operating within China must have a Chinese partner which owns 50%. Nevertheless China also offers tax cuts and subsidies which makes it worthwhile.

    Highly dependent on oil from Middle East countries like Iraq, China is trying to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

    General Motors is also developing a front-wheel drive transmission which they hope will have 10% greater efficiency than an automatic transmission.

    Ford meanwhile is also developing a small direct-injection turbocharged engine named "EcoBoost" which has 20% greater fuel efficiency.

    Having these more efficient engines and transmissions will be compounded in cars which are smaller and/or more lightweight. ie. If the par efficiency is 100 units then reducing the weight by 30% will increase efficiency to 70 units, but if the engines/transmission are also 20% more efficient that reduces it to 56 units. The end result is a car which is almost twice as efficient when it comes to fuel.

    The only lasting question then is how practical it is for transportation of you, your family and anything you are carrying.

    Cellphone Little Black Dress

    FASHION / TECHNOLOGY - There's a new cellphone on the market and its coming to clothing retailers near you... or rather its a dress that just happens to have a cellphone built in.

    The "M-Dress" is a slinky black frock which comes will a cellphone sneakily hidden into the fabric, as part of the sleeve so that when you lift your arm to your ear you pick up the call and can talk to whomever is calling you. Unfortunately its only been designed to have one programmable number for calling out, but they're hoping to add more programmable settings so it can be voice-activated. A SIM-card is embedded within the dress and the antenna is in the dress hem.

    Wearing a 'superspy' dress like this means you don't have to go hunting in your purse whenever your phone rings... and better yet you don't look like one of those crazy homeless-looking people with bluetooth crap who talk to themselves.

    The dress isn't meant to be worn everyday, but it is ideal for events when you don't want to be carrying around extra items. Its also smart enough to tell the difference between when you're scratching your ear or trying to phone someone.

    Made by CuteCircuit, founded by fashion designer Francesca Rosella and anthropologist Ryan Genz, the dress is available at Selfridges starting in October. The company also makes tops with lights that flash/change colour as you move, a Hug Shirt which vibrates when someone texts the word HUG to your cellphone and a LED gown like the one Katy Perry wore to the Met Ball in New York.

    Bull jumps into stands, injures 40 people

    ENTERTAINMENT - 40 people have been injured in northern Spain when a charging bull jumped into the stands around the bullring and attacked people, injuring 40 Spaniards.

    The bull managed to get stuck and surrounded near the base of the grandstands and a team of quick-thinking men managed to loop a rope around the bull's neck and then restrain it in an unlikely tug of war.



    The video shows an almost gravity defying leap on the part of bull, reminiscent of Danny MacAskill's bicycle stunts which are likewise gravity defying.

    August 18, 2010

    Toronto to build waterfront ice arena

    CANADA - Toronto has decided to build an $88 million hockey and skating arena on Toronto's waterfront, near Commissioners St. and Don Roadway. $34 million has already been earmarked for the project. The city is comtemplating a bond (essentially a mortgage) to help pay for the rest of the arena plus additional funding from the Ontario government.

    An user surcharge will help pay off the bond over a period of 30 years. The arena complex will include FOUR NHL-size ice rinks stacked above each other, spectator seating, restaurants, meeting rooms, an indoor track for running. The indoor arena will be ideal for tournaments and allow Torontonians to hone their ice skating skills even in the off season. The facility will act as a regional sports complex.

    The building is designed to be environmentally sustainable (which is important since its build near the waterfront and can't be leaking waste into the lake) and may include an Olympic-sized rink for speed skaters and figure skaters (which would be great for if Toronto ever gets another shot at hosting the Olympics).

    There is some concerns about migratory birds flying into the all-glass structure so there are also plans to make it more bird-friendly.

    August 16, 2010

    Canada's real estate heading into bear market

    CANADA - Canadians are paying too much for real estate, so says the TD Bank which estimates people are paying 10 to 15% more than the actual value of the homes they are buying. As such the TD Bank is now predicting a "moderate correction" in real estate prices during 2010 and 2011.

    But according to economists its much worse than that. Others are saying the Canadian real estate bubble could be as big as 25 to 40%... and if it bursts it could mean a mortgage and housing crisis similar to what happened in the USA in 2007.

    Home sales in Toronto's real estate market during July 2010 have been down dramatically for the third straight month, with prices showing a very modest 1% increase. According to economists the market has become flooded with people trying to sell, but everyone is still paying high prices despite the abundance of homes on the market.

    According to TD Bank economists the downward correction will only be about a 10 to 15% drop ion housing prices. The correction should even stronger in major cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

    Annual seasonally adjusted home sales are currently down 30% compared to July 2009. Home sales in the Toronto real estate market was down 37% in July.

    Once the prices drop considerably we should see a rebound in homebuying.

    Blood Potion & Zombie drinks banned

    ENTERTAINMENT/GOTHIC - The After Dark Film Festival is on right now in Toronto, plus organizers are planning Toronto's 8th Zombie Walk... but Canadian Customs has decided to ban the Blood Potion and Zombie energy shots.

    The two energy drinks come in resealable transfusion bags and come from from a geeky "Twilight obsessed" culture of vampire, zombie and werewolf fanatics who devour everything they can find that is remotely horror or gothic. The Zombie drink is a vile green colour and tastes like Lime Crush whereas Blood Potion is a dark red, thick like blood and tastes like fruit punch.

    But Canadian Customs is quite strict when it comes to caffeine products. They've rejected the Harcos 100 ml bags of Blood Potion and Zombie energy drinks several times now because they pack 80 milligrams of caffeine each, twice the amount found in a Red Bull energy drink.

    Is the India Superbug a Hoax?

    HEALTH - The pharmaceutical company that funded the study of the "discovery" of a superbug in India which was found in visitors to the country is now being questioned by the press and governments over whether this was all an elaborate scheme to sell antibiotics, which the company is question is one of the world's largest producers of.

    "The study nowhere mentions if the bacteria were found even before those persons visited India,” says India's Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. “The study was funded by a pharma company which is one of the biggest antibiotics maker in the world.”

    According to the study in question, the new superbug was found in 37 cases of patients who had travelled to India for cosmetic surgery, cancer treatment and transplants. That doesn't mean they caught the superbug when they arrived in India, but rather they simply had the superbug when the study was conducted and the origin might instead be North America since that is where many of these surgery and cancer treatment "tourists" are from.

    Researchers have been warning this superbug (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 or NDM-1) could spread worldwide and attach itself to other diseases which are currently treated by antibiotics, creating new strains which are resistant and more deadly.

    So the superbug is real, but the pharmaceutical company which funded the study hasn't been entirely honest about its origins or its research methodology. India's Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi says India will be getting to the bottom of this elaborate scheme.

    “Obviously, we have to find out if there are some kind of ulterior motives or not of some pharmaceutical industries as well. I personally feel that sometimes, some things are commercially motivated.” says Dinesh Trivedi.

    India is a global hub for medical care at an affordable price. Medical tourists often travel to India because they have some of the most affordable private health care available and treatment options which aren't available in their own countries.

    China 2nd Largest Economy, Japan lags

    By Ai Lung Nguyen - August 2010.

    POLITICS - Japan has been overtaken by China as the world's 2nd largest economy. Japan's growth rate has been slower and shaky recently whereas China has been continuing to leap forward due to the undervaluation of the Yuan and high demand for Chinese exports. Japan has been holding the #2 spot almost constantly since 1968, rising from the ashes of WWII to become a manufacturing powerhouse.

    Japan's GDP grew at an annual rate of 0.4% in the last year, below the expectations of 2.3% growth. Japanese economists hope Japan will be stronger in the 3rd and 4th quarters, possibly showing 3% growth.

    Meanwhile China's growth in the last year has been 10% and has been consistently growing approx. 10% each year for the last decade. China is already the biggest steel producer, the biggest exporter, the biggest auto buyer and is altering the global financial balance. China has passed Japan before, but this time economists believe it will permanent as China is now gaining rapidly on the United States.

    The biggest trick in all this however is how the currency is valued. In Japan the Yen has been very rocky during the last year, losing about 8% of its value in the March to May period of 2010, but is overall up compared to last year. That rockiness has hurt Japanese productivity and exports.

    China in contrasts pegs the Yuan to the US dollar and is so ridiculously undervalued it really should be worth 3 to 5 times more than it currently is. Taking that into account China is technically the world's largest economy, but because China's currency is deliberately undervalued it skews the whole perspective...

    Which begs the question, why do we even bother measuring these things in US dollars when we know currency fluctuations and valuations skews everything.

    Japan's economic woes are only getting worse. Their real estate industry was booming during the 1980s until the bubble burst in 1991. They never recovered from the economic malaise of the 1990s and now face real problems due to an aging population, a shrinking birth rate, weak domestic demand, deflation and the strong yen is hurting exports. The only things Japan has going for it is its robotics, computers, cameras and anime industries... all of which Japan is losing ground on as other countries gain market share.

    China is hardly playing fair in all this, pegging the Yuan to the US dollar has created a global imbalance. Sure, the average person in China only earns $3,600 USD per year, but that's because they're only paid approx. $10 per day when they should be earning $50 or more. Food prices, rent, etc is all super cheap in China and its difficult to estimate what China's real economic power is.

    Multiply it by three perhaps and we might get a conservative estimate.

    August 15, 2010

    Proof Americans shouldn't build Rally Cars

    CARS - If you think only Europeans and Asians know how to build a proper rally car, you'd be correct in your assessment. Americans have a tendency to think size and speed before handling and anyone at all familiar with the sport of rally racing will tell you that the bigger you are, the more likely you are to roll and crash.

    But try telling that to Americans.

    The off-road rally truck shown here slammed into a crowd of Americans, causing bodies to fly everywhere during a rally race in California yesterday (Saturday) night. The crash killed 8 people and injured 12 others.

    Now it is true that people do often come out to rally races in the hopes of seeing a crash. Perhaps the Americans organizing the race WANTED to have crashes so that spectators would get what they wanted to see. (The Tour de France has been doing the same thing in recent years, deliberately picking difficult routes so the cyclists will crash and have their careers/lives permanently ruined just for the sake of free press coverage and TV ratings.) Setting these dangerous precedents for the sake of entertainment is rather ridiculous.

    And certainly the people showing up to watch the race and possibly see a crash didn't expect to be in the crash and get killed themselves.

    So regardless of whether these crashes are deliberate or Americans simply don't know diddly squat about building rally vehicles, 8 people are now dead.

    The crash happened early in the race, the California 200, in the Mojave Desert around 8 PM. Due to the remote location it took rescue helicopters and other vehicles over 30 minutes just to reach the crash site. 6 people died on the scene before medics could arrive and another 2 more died in the hospital.

    SUVs and trucks may be designed to go off-road, but they're not designed for racing conditions. They can't go around corners properly.

    In the case the Prerunner truck had just gone over a jump called "the Rockpile" in the first 2 miles of the race. The truck hit the ground and moments later when the driver tried to turn sharply he rolled the truck right into the crowd of spectators.

    When the truck finally stopped moving several people were trapped under the truck. Others were lying in pools of their own blood. People were screaming and some people weren't moving at all. One woman was lying in a pool of blood with a major head wound. Someone else was crushed under the truck.

    Spectators managed to push the truck onto its side, freeing the people who were trapped underneath it.

    The driver was uninjured and fled the scene, fearing angry spectators who began throwing rocks at him.

    There was no guard rails protecting the spectators who were standing a mere 10 feet from the edge of the track. Over 15,000 people were attending the race which includes several jumps, obstacles and the vehicles involved reach 100+ mph speeds.

    The crash is just one of many such crashes that happen on a yearly basis in the USA, a culture which is obsessed with speed, size and watching things blow up. Monster trucks, illegal drag races, etc.

    A dragster lost control and killed 6 spectators and injured 22 more in Selmer, Tennessee in June 2007. The driver was convicted of "reckless assault".

    An illegal drag race on a suburban street in Accokeek, Maryland killed 8 people and injured 5 more in February 2008. The two drivers were convicted of manslaughter.

    At Chandler's Firebird International Raceway in Arizona a female spectator was killed by a tire from a crashing dragster in February 2010.

    But really these crashes could have been prevented if Americans weren't so obsessed with trying to build big fast machines that can't possibly be driven around a corner or controlled. They're crashes waiting to happen.

    August 14, 2010

    Toyota fine, no evidence of flaws

    CARS - Something fishy is going on in the automotive industry, and it all began when people started complaining about stuck accelerator pedals on Toyota vehicles. However an U.S. government investigation into the complaints and the machinery/electronics shows there was nothing wrong with the vehicles that crashed.

    According to examination only 1 out of 58 crashes in which flawed electronics/accelerators were blamed was actually accurate, in which the pedal became stuck under a floor mat. Otherwise the pedal never became stuck on its own and was never slow to spring back. The investigation was helped by data recording devices which was installed in 2007 and newer models.

    And then there is that incident of the man on a California freeway who later admitted he had faked it.

    So if only 1 of the incidents was real, does that mean the other 57 drivers were faking it? It all seems awfully suspicious.

    Toyota recalled almost 9 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles worldwide to fix problems involving floor mats and sticky pedals... and furthermore checked for malfunctions in the cars' electronic throttle control system due to complaints of sudden acceleration.

    The government investigation is still ongoing, but the raw findings thus far show Toyota was not at fault. The one incident where a pedal got stuck under a floor mat was the fault of the driver having moved the floor mat forward too close to the pedal, and thus is hardly Toyota's fault either because that could happen in any car.

    Another possibility, supported by psychologists, is human error. Some people just accidentally pressed the gas pedal when they meant to step on the brakes.

    Toyota's private investigation has found nothing wrong with every car they've tested. The government investigation is likewise supportive.

    Thre is over 3,000 complaints of sudden acceleration for Toyota vehicles, and 93 related deaths, but the cause of the complaints has yet to be found. Investigators are starting to wonder if drivers were just faking it in a case of mass hysteria and the 93 deaths was just normal car accidents due to human error.

    In other car news...

    General Motors IPO

    General Motors is planning to go public once more and the U.S. and Canadian governments are poised to sell off their shares in the company, making back the money which both governments had paid for the company during its recession credit crunch when banks were refusing to lend money for car loans.

    GM recently posted a $1.33 billion USD second quarter profit. Auto sales in the USA have nearly recovered to 2008 levels and are continuing to show signs of growth. Chrysler and GM both received buyouts, but are well on their way to standing on their own feet. The IPO, which will likely happen in 2011, will allow the governments to get their money back and eventually the companies will be standing on their own two feet again.

    August 12, 2010

    Hey, Ayatollah, leave those kids alone

    ENTERTAINMENT/RELIGION - A Toronto-based band named "Blurred Vision" has the blessing of Pink Floyd to do a cover song and music video of Pink Floyd's "The Wall"... with a slight lyric change: "Hey, Ayatollah, leave those kids alone!", a reference to Iran's tyrranical religious theocracy.

    Co-founders and brothers Sohl on bass guitar and Sepp on guitar/singer are garnering attention across the world with their new variation on the old Pink Floyd favourite. Normally Pink Floyd has been against people using their song because they wanted it to be for the right reasons and not for a band just hoping to make a profit. The new protest song isn't about making money and is focused on rebelling against Iran's older generation, and the video utilizes footage from student protests against Iran's fraudulent election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who according to exit polls should have lost by a long shot). The band also donates much of their profits to human rights organizations operating in Iran.




    "Blurred Vision" was formed in 2007 by brothers Sepp and Sohl who fled Iran in 1986 with their family in 1986. Their last name has been kept private for fear of retribution against their family members still living in Iran.

    "We did a show in Toronto in September and while we were performing we decided let's play 'Another Brick in the Wall' just for the hell of it and as the chorus line came up I just decided to sing 'hey Ayatollah' instead of 'hey teacher' and when I sang that line the crowd went insane," says Sepp. They later released the music video in February.

    The fact Pink Floyd has now endorsed the song has boosted international attention for the song, but its the attention in Iran that they're most interested in.

    "We get a lot of e-mails, especially from the younger guys, and I remember we were in London for a film festival where we were there to receive an award for best video and Sohl was translating an e-mail into English. And as he was translating he started crying. The e-mail said, 'It is you guys out there that can keep this going for us, that can keep our voice alive. We're here sort of isolated from the rest of the world, we've been shut down and shut off from the rest of the world and all we can say is just keep our voice alive, keep going to allow us to reach this point of freedom,'" says Sepp.

    The members of "Blurred Vision" hope their videos and music will circumvent internet censorship in Iran so that many Iranians can see their message of hope and freedom.

    Meanwhile in Iran supporters of the Ayatollah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are not happy about the music at all and instead are accusing the band of promoting anti-Iranian propaganda and working for the U.S. government. The Ayatollah recently made threats to crackdown on music in Iran's youth culture and banning all music in an attempt to ban subversive lyrics.

    The band was also worried about Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters and his approval.

    "We were nervous because we're thinking we're coming out with our first release as a Pink Floyd cover and along the lines of musicians and music fans the Floyd can't be touched," says Sepp. "… so we laid the track down and right away we knew that we had to get it over to Roger because he was such a hero to us."

    Weeks later Waters gave the band the "green light."

    "We got the e-mail back from the Roger Waters camp and it said you have Roger Water's blessing and not only that but this track is now in your hands it's now yours as its title "Hey Ayatollah, leave those kids alone," says Sepp. "For me and Sohl it was one of the most unbelievable moments in our musical lives."

    "I think it's great that these guys are using the song to protest against the repressive and brutal regime in Iran," says Waters. "I am proud to be a small part of this resistance." "I think The Blurred Vision video is very accomplished and makes its point powerfully," he adds.

    Their next song due to be released is titled "Democracy".

    "Subversive lyrics are more deeply felt by people who have had their freedoms restricted and taken away."

    Eco Renovations in Canada

    CANADA/ENVIRONMENT - If you're looking to cut back on heating and electricity prices there are a number of ways you can do it.

    #1. Insulation - Anything, and we do mean ANYTHING you can do to better insulate your home both in the summer and the winter will save you a bundle. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX and you can come up with other ways to insulate your home cheaply and efficiently.

    For example wooden shutters. Sure, they're old fashioned and they sometimes get ripped off in a windstorm (which might happen once every 4-5 years), but they provide very good value for money. In the winter shutters shield your windows from the cold and in the summer they shield you from the bright sunlight and heat.

    Or another alternative to wooden shutters is fabric blinds, which is more energy efficient than regular blinds.

    #2. Roofing - The last thing you want is heat escaping out your roof during the winter or too much heat being absorbed in the summer. Roofing is similar to insulation, but you want it to be durable in all kinds of weather. If you have a flat roof you could also build something across or above it (ie. lattice work or some kind of barrier) which can deflect the heat in the summer and helps insulate in the winter.

    #3. Decks and Verandas - Another thing we like for keeping the heat off the house is decks and verandas (with a roof above it).

    In all seasons verandas and decks can be quite useful for insulating the exterior of the house, creating a barrier between it and the snow/heat. Some people even have dettachable steel siding/wooden walls they can add to their verandas in the winter to insulate it even more. Deck building isn't for amateurs however. You want to hire a skilled carpenter or deck building, or even better someone who specializes in building verandas. You can also get eco friendly deck designs these days.

    #4. Windmills and Solar Power - If you own a house there is very little stopping you in my opinion from setting up several windmills and solar panels on your roof, backyard, etc. One of the cheapest routes is to use portable solar power which is usually meant for cottages/etc, but can be quite useful for home use as well if you're frugal about how you use your electricity.

    #5. Recycle Old Things - When it comes to insulation and renovation don't be afraid to recycle old things. A colleague of ours, Robert Campbell, has a number of websites including one for social media marketing, and he reviews bloggers / blogging websites on his site Canada Blog Friends, but the one we really want to mention is Dumpdiggers which promotes the idea of digging through garbage dumps and looking for items that can be used again. Now you don't have to go to an actual dump to do this. You could just as easily walk down the street in a neighbourhood and look at all the stuff people have set by the curb for the garbage collector... old couches, chairs, scrap computers, books, whatever.

    What we'd be looking for myself is glass, mirrors, wood and steel which is still usable. If you spot anything that looks like a propeller or windmill blades, or a 12 Volt electric motor then you could even build your own windmill.

    Once you have the necessary tools and materials then you go about adding to your home, insulating it, adding shutters, a veranda, a greenhouse, whatever ideas you can come up to make your home more efficient.

    #6. STONE MASONRY - This is the one we love the most and we've used CAPS for a reason. Stone masonry is hard work, but very rewarding once you have stone walls on your home. Stone is the absolute best insulator regardless of season. And best of all you can make your stone walls as thick as you feel like. They could be 3 or 6 feet thick if you want, the more you have the better insulated your home is.

    Learning stone masonry is actually fairly easy, but the real trick is the heavy lifting. This is not something to do if you can't even lift a 50 or 100 lb rock. Finding rocks can also be tricky. We are firm believers in abandoned gravel pits, where the large rocks have been tossed to the side. You go there with a truck, load up half a tonne of rocks, take them back home and unload them. You mix the mortar start placing stones, mortar inbetween them and keep going at it until you run out of both mortar and stones.

    Learning how to split rocks with a splitting sledge, building joints and corners on a building are more tricky so we recommend doing lots of research at the library and becoming an unofficial expert on the topic before embarking on this. We also recommend working with a partner because it will make the work much easier.

    Hiring a stone mason is very expensive, because the work is so heavy and stonemasons are rare yet in demand. Doing it yourself is the best option, but only if you're physical fit and mentally capable of the challenge... both in terms of understanding the principles of masonry, but also in terms of determination. The last thing you want is to start the job, lose your confidence/determination and then do a half-ass job of it.

    #7. What about your car...? - Now you might think what can you do to renovate your car... but the truth it is possible, depending on how ruthless you want to be. Every kilogram of weight you can shed from your vehicle will save you in mileage and gasoline later. The most basic thing is to throw out all the useless junk and garbage that is in your trunk, backseat, under the seats, in the glovebox, etc. You especially don't need that 40 kilogram roof rack that you never use (or only use once/year). If you are much more ruthless however you can toss out the backseats entirely and start removing unnecessary parts in an effort to cut as much weight off your car as possible... like dumping those old speakers you never use.

    Another important thing you can do is maintenance. Tire pressure, a clean engine from the inside out and remove anything that is messing with the efficiency of the engine. A well-tuned engine will save you gasoline just because its more efficient and runs better.

    "It has very little to do with saving the planet and so much more to do with saving money."

    See Also:
    Window Blinds and Your Health

    August 11, 2010

    Cycling Fashion in Toronto

    By Charles Moffat - August 2010.

    FASHION - Bicycles are the latest fashion accessory to go mainstream... the weird thing its not normally what people think of when they think "fashion accessory"... although obviously Paris Hilton seems to think chihuahuas make good fashion accessories.

    So ignore the bracelets, the faux scarves, the Fendi bags... watch out when you walk into Club Monaco or any other high end fashion store for women and the biggest accessory in the room is a shiny European-style cruiser bicycle with a price tag of $599 or more.

    Blame the explosion of bicycle culture in the mainstream of urban centres around the world, but I am personally going to blame traffic gridlock and Ontario's graduated licenses program (which didn't even put a dent into teenager driver accident fatalities) for making it so much more difficult for young people to get a driver's license.

    Whatever the cause, the point is bicycles are now considered kewl and the must-have item for fashionistas who are increasingly environmentally friendly, love yoga, have experimented (and possibly failed) with veganism and seem to have forgotten their boots are made of leather, and so is the nice bicycle seat their sitting on.

    Online cycling culture and style has been promoted heavily. There is thesartorialist.com which has a cycling chic section with photos from Milan and Paris, but the absolute favourite is copenhagencyclechic.com, which should be enough to make any red blooded Canadian man drool due to the veritable harem of attractive young women on bicycles on that website.

    And when you're thinking fashion, don't think spandex. Yuck. Think jeans, skirts, short shorts and an array of clothing that compliments the female body instead of just clinging tightly to it. (I for one believe cyclists who wear spandex are morons with no fashion sense and wannabe racers.)

    In Toronto cycling fashion has reached a point where I sometimes stop my bike and just watch the other cyclists go by just so I can admire the females and their bicycles whizzing by. As a red blooded male bicycle mechanic I can appreciate looking at both.

    If you're interested in cycling chic in Toronto you can also check thecommonelite.org, which illustrates you can pretty much wear whatever you want when cycling... and that spandex wearers are a bunch of socially inept rejects.

    Footwear and choice of skirt matters little either. You will frequently see young women wearing miniskirts and platforms (or even barefoot) while cycling. Now that's sexy!








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