Thursday, February 27, 2014

Loving the Smell of Cordite in the Morning

'Did you see that tank going by?'
   Here’s a really bad idea for a world unbalanced by bad ideas:  A London, Ontario tank armour manufacturer wants to establish an explosion test site on the southern edge of Algonquin Park.
   Armatec Survivabilty plans to buy 2,300 acres of bush country for an explosion obstacle course to test its armour. The land is across the road from Benoir Lake, one of many cottage lakes in the area. Cottagers have received notice from the Dysart et al Municipal Council that it plans to decide  in late March whether to allow the Armatec purchase.
   Tanks weighing up to 50 tonnes would be run through the obstacle course and the company says there would be only one explosion a day on 30 days a year and explosive noise would be short. There also would be mobility tests in which tanks and armoured vehicles roar through the forest.
   The company, anticipating someone might object to explosions and tank maneuvers on the border of Ontario’s most precious piece of outdoor heritage, has an FAQ site answering 42 questions about the plan. It can be found at:
   One of the cards already being played in the testing range plan is: “This is all about saving the lives of our soldiers.” Please, let’s not do that. There are plenty of other places, plenty of other ways to do important testing that will help protect our soldiers.
   The real issue here is that we live in a world in which pollution and noise are killing us, or driving us crazy. The Algonquin Park area is one place where people can go to find some solitude. That 2,300 acres should become an extension of the Park, not a war weapons testing range.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Behind the Philip Seymour Hoffman Drug Death

   It’s easy to shrug off the drug addiction death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman as just another privileged celebrity losing control and his life. When you dig behind Hoffman’s death you see a picture that should scare the hell out of society.
   Addictions to prescription drugs, which had been soaring, are dropping somewhat because of cost and the tightening of availability. The drop, however, has brought a sharp rise in addiction to heroin, which is becoming cheaper and easier to get. So society is confronting two major drug battles.
   The New York Times recently reported on the town of Hudson, Wisconsin, population 13,000, located not far from Minneapolis. It told the story of a 21-year-old woman who is believed to be the small town’s seventh heroin fatal overdose in eight months.
   Meanwhile, reporters from the Gannett newspaper group surveyed Wisconsin county coroners and reported that fatal drug overdoses in the state rose 50 per cent in 2012 to 199 deaths. Between 2000 and 2007 the state averaged 29 such deaths a year.
   Figures from the U.S. federal government show almost 20,000 opioid drug deaths nationally in 2010, roughly 3,000 from heroin and the rest from painkillers. A large percentage of the deaths are among the young. Heroin deaths of U.S. teenagers and young adults have tripled since the year 2000.

   Drug overdose deaths exceed motor vehicle traffic deaths in 29 U.S. states, says an October 2013 report done for the Trust for America’s Health organization. In West Virginia 29 people in every 100,000 die of drug overdoses.
   The illicit drug epidemic also is in Canada, although Canadian agencies are not nearly as good at documenting it. Health Canada has reported that 22.9% of Canadians aged 15 years and older indicated in 2011 that they had used a psychoactive pharmaceutical in the past year.    And, 3.2% of these users said they abused illicit drugs. In Ontario, 23 per cent of school students surveyed said they were offered, sold or given an illicit drug in the past school year.

   Numbers. Numbers that roll in one ear and out the other. Between the 'in' ear and the 'out' ear they should be setting off some alarm bells.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Groundhog Day

The groundhog didn't come out at our place up north. I worried that he was buried under the snow so I went looking for him. I figured he might be at our bush lot.

There was some snow on the lot road so I decided to plough in. This little ATV wasn't up to the job, however. So I donned snowshoes and trooped in to the tractor shed to get more horsepower.
A little bit of snow shovelling was needed to get into the tractor shed.

The shed was still shaking off the effects of a minus 37 Celsius morning, so I had to take the generator apart, and spray ether
into the cylinders to get it started. Then I plugged the Salamander in and unthawed the tractor. After a couple of hours, we were bucketing snow!

It takes longer than expected to bucket out three feet of snow along a half a kilometer of road, which was cleared three weeks ago.

So when dusk fell, it was back onto the snowshoes, leaving the rest of the snow clearing for another time. My wife was so happy to see me back that she took my picture.

Meanwhile, I never did find that groundhog. In fact it snowed so hard during the day I never got to see my own shadow.