Monday, June 28, 2010


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Warren Zevon

One of the greatest folk singers of all time is Warren Zevon. You remember him as the voice behind "Werewolves of London". Warren was capable of writing a song on the spot...for instance, on the David Letterman Show, he wrote and composed "Licked by a Stranger" in response to some banter with David. (The link shows that episode) Oh sure, we all know and love Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner and the possibly autobiographical song "Send Lawyers,Guns and Money and get me out of this!" But to my mind, his finest effort was the hockey song. Oh, no, not the Stompin Tom Conners "Hockey Song", but rather, Warren Zevon's "Hit Somebody, the Hockey Song".

An acquaintance in the beautiful country of Cyprus told me that the warning phrase becoming popular around the world is "Better watch out or I'll go Canadian on ya! Hmmm. Wonder if this is the reason why.

When Warren was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his friends all recorded an album. If I was dying of cancer, I don't know if I would be able to record "Knock knock knockin' on heaven's door, but Warren did. Far from being a depressing recording session, it turned out to be one almighty awesome party.

I'll leave you with Jackson Browne's version of "Roland".

Friday, June 25, 2010

Music for a Friday Night!v=huRwBFmAx78&feature=related

So do ye do young Willy McBride
Do ya mind if ah sit here down beside yer grave side
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun
I bin walkin' all day and I'm nearly done.

And ah see by yer gravestone that ye were only nineteen
When ye joined the great fallen in nineteen fifteen
Well I hope ye died quick and I hope ye died clean
or Willy McBride was it slow and obscene

Did they play the drum slowly and did the play the fife lowly
did they sound the death march as they lowered ya down
did the band play the last post and chorus, and
did the pipes play "The Flowers of the Forest"?

And did ya leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
in some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though ya died in nineteen sixteen
ta that loyal heart you are forever nineteen.

Or are you a stranger without even a name
forever enshrined behind some old glass pane
in an old photograph torn and tattered and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Did they play the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly
did they sound the death march as they lowered ye down
Did the band play the Last Post and Chorus,
Did the pipes play "The Flowers of the Forest".

The sun shinin' down on these green fields of France
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance
the trenches have vanished down under the ground
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.

But here in this graveyard it's still no man's land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
When a whole generation were butchered and damned

Did they play the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered ye down
Did the band play the Last Post and chorus
And did the band play "The Flowers of the Forest".

And I can't help wonder now young Willy McBride
do all those who lie here know why they died
Did ya really believe them when they told ya the cause
Did ya really believe that this war would end wars

Well the sufferin' the sorrow, the glory, the shame
the killlin' an' th' dyin', it was all done in vain
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again
And again and again and again

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the "Death March" as they lowered ya down
Did the band play the "Last Post" and chorus,
Did the pipes play "The flowers of the Forest".

The tune is "The Green Fields of France", and the band is "The Drop Kick Murpheys".

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mushrooms to the rescue

Paul Stamets is a biologist who specializes in, of all things, mushrooms. He feels that his field is greatly underappreciated. For instance, he discovered that some species of mushroom will destroy termites and carpenter ants, (which may put paid to the pesticide industry!). However his biggest contribution to history may well be the question he asked himself when he was kid...."what eats crude oil".
I mean, something must eat it....something eats most everything! He discovered that ordinary oyster mushrooms love salt water, and thrive on crude oil. Other mushrooms might work better, and from such questions are research projects made from. He is working on moulds and mushrooms which can turn cellulose (corn stalks, sawdust) into ethanol. His research may well be the most important scientific endeavor in the world today.

Here is the link to Paul's TED talk.
Its only 20 minutes.

Be prepared to be gob smacked.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Red Bay Ship

Way back when in history, the Basques chased whales all over the Atlantic Ocean, and long before Chris Columbus and even John Cabot made their famous trips to the new world, the Iberian whalers built settlements at Red Bay, Labrador. The reason for living in such a black fly and mosquito infested place? Well, there was lots of wood to put under cooking pots to render down whale blubber into whale oil, and lots of privacy. Especially privacy, since whale oil was a VERY valuable material. Also, it was on a migratory route for whales, the place where the gulf stream meets up with the Labrador current, creating a food supply second to none for shell fish in the world. And whales eat shell fish, so there were lots of whales. The heyday for whale hunting was during the 16th century, and thousands of whales were killed and rendered down into oil.
The basques hunted whales in a manner which remained unchanged for centuries...a shallop (rowboat for about 7 men) went out to the whale, and stabbed it with a harboon. The whale would take off, dragging the row boat in what was referred to much later as a "Nantucket sleigh ride". The whale could not sound (dive deep) because the water was comparatively shallow here. If he had been able to, he would have dragged the whalers to Davy Jones' Locker. As it was, the poor animal bled to death, and floated to the surface.
In the Parks Canada building, there is a room set aside that is like a museum. (Actually it resembles nothing so much as a self-congratulation room, and is about the same size as the Arthur Evans Room in the Ashmolean Museum in England, but doesnt contain nearly as much stuff) In there you find the paintings, several artifacts from the wreck, some models. The models pictured here are from the San Juan, a ship which came to grief in Red Bay.

The model above is of the sloop San Juan. The earliest Atlantic Ocean boat ever found.
The San Juan sank in fairly shallow water, and settled on its keel. Swimmers at the time yanked out the cross beams which formed its deck in order to salvage masts, decent sized wood, and of course, the expensive cargo. The sides of the ship folded outwards like the leaves of a book and settled on the bottom. Eventually, they were covered in silt, thereby preserving it to the present day.
Canada became a world leader in under water archeology, partly as a result of this wreck, among others. As I talked to the present day diver-archeologists, they told me that they much prefer under water archaeology to conventional land based research because "we are not standing on the artifacts when we are in the water".
This was not your nice Carribean or Great Barrier Reef diving experience either...this water was cold-cold-cold! Its the Labrador current after all, that is so cold that icebergs (being made from fresh water) don't melt in it! The divers gave up on using dry suits, and went to wet "hot water" suits, where hot water was pumped into their suits down the same umbilical which brought their air. The visibility was problematic since they were actually digging into that silt! Hoses were brought down to do the "digging", which had air blown into them in order to cause a flow of water, like a vacuum cleaner....the silt was brought up to the surface, and passed through screens so that nothing would get missed. So when this operation was going on, you saw your assigned aluminum taped square and that was about it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Parks Canada

During the "Doors Open" event here in Ottawa last weekend, one of the places we got a chance to visit was the Parks Canada archaeology rooms. The lady above is a scientist, and she is showing a re-build of a turn of the century collection made by the curator from an old fort out west. The collection of buttons, shako badges, flints and assorted thing were looking really thread bare, and so they re-mounted it all. After de-rusting and stabilizing the collection of course.

The boot they dragged up off the bottom of the St. Lawrence looks ready to wear! But it is nearly 300 years old, and has undergone some fairly extensive restoration.

Above is another one. Click on the images to see them a bit bigger.

Above is one of the scientists who is showing off a cup that was found in a wrecked ship that was lost in a raid on Quebec City during King Philip's War.
Below is a drawing of the ship, and the archaeology which was available. The picture on the table is the grid site map.

The public is not generally allowed to see what goes in the back rooms of places like this, and I feel that it was a special privilege to get the chance.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

My friends call me Paddy


A man boarded an aircraft at London 's Heathrow Airport for New York , and
taking his seat as
he settled in he noticed a very beautiful woman boarding the plane.

He realised she was heading straight toward his seat and bingo - she took
the seat right beside him.

"Hello", he blurted out, "Business trip or vacation?"

She turned, smiled, and with an enchanting lilt in her voice
said, "Business. I'm going to the annual nymphomaniac
convention in the United States ."

He swallowed hard.

Here was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen sitting next to him, and
she was going
to a meeting for nymphomaniacs!

Struggling to maintain his composure he calmly asked, "What's your business
role at this convention?"

"Lecturer," she responded." I use my experience to debunk some of the
popular myths about sexuality.."

"Really", he smiled "what myths are those?"

"Well," she explained, "one popular myth is that African-American men are
the most well endowed,
when, in fact, it's the Native American Indian who is most likely to possess
that trait.

Another popular myth is that French men are the best lovers when actually it
is the men of
Greek descent.

We have also found that the best potential lovers in all categories are the

Suddenly the woman became uncomfortable, and blushed. "I'm sorry, l do

She said. "I really shouldn't be discussing this with you, I don't even know
your name!"

"Tonto," the man said. "Tonto Papadopoulos, but my friends call me Paddy."