Tag Archives: Canada

Debris

One of the more fascinating subjects that seem to occupy the news is the tsunami debris field that has slowly descended on western parts of Canada. Earlier this year, a Japanese HD motorcycle that washed up in Canada made the headlines after news reporters managed to find the owner of it, who had apparently barely managed to survive the disaster.

According to latest estimations, the field contains 1.5 million tons of debris, which has BC authorities pondering what to do with the problem:

“Stuff has been coming across the Pacific forever but to see the start of 3 million tonnes of debris washed off the land and head across the ocean towards us was something I never thought I would see. There’s a wait-and-see approach and most people want to take some action. But it’s a very huge job and we haven’t seen anything yet coming from the government on plans on how to be ready for it and what we’re going to do when the debris hits.”

The US’s NOAA has an extensive site dedicated to the problem (here), which includes an interesting infographic about the field itself and where most of the debris might land (using current and wind models). While the NOAA infographic doesn’t mention any possible findings of human remains, a US oceanographer expects that people might find sneakers with bones in them:

“We’re expecting 100 sneakers with bones in them,” Curt Ebbesmeyer told a tsunami symposium Monday, “DNA may identify people missing since the March 2011 tsunami. That may be the only remains that a Japanese family is ever going to have of their people that were lost. We’re dealing with things that are of extreme sensitivity. Emotional content is just enormous. So be respectful”

Ebbesmeyer, who is the co-creator of the “Ocean Surface Current Simulator computer model”, expects the amount of debris to peak in October of this year.

A bird. A what?

Now that I’m a full-blooded Canadian (previously),there are a couple of distinctive things that make the difference between the continents I’ve lived on, North America and Europe. The five things that truly surprised me:

  • Snow. During my very first snowstorm, I thought snow was sort of fun. When this snow kept on going for you know, a couple of more months, that ‘fun’ part quickly faded away. It’s not really the snow amount that bothers me tho: it’s the fact that the snow keeps hanging around for a while because of the subzero temperatures.
  • Seasonal awareness. You can literally feel and smell the seasonal changes: I’ve never really paid attention to this when I lived in Europe.
  • The dramatic difference in fauna and wildlife. Seeing deer walk around surprised me. But raccouns, skunks, groundhogs, coyotes? Not to mention, the difference in birds: hummingbirds, cardinals and robins (“giant robins”) absolutely make up for the little birds I’ve seen and gotten used to in Europe.

I remember the very first day I saw a Bluejay fly about and I was too stunned to figure out what I just had seen as I couldn’t properly name the bird. I wonder if that’s the same feeling the very first North American explorers had when they set foot on this continent.

It’s a plane…

It’s a plane, it’s a bird, no, it’s a new Canadian citizen.

So on October 20th of 2010 (20-10-2010, which is a highly remarkable set of numbers if I might say so), I became a Canadian citizen after having been living here now for 10 years. To celebrate that, I was featured on the CBC as well, a story you’ll find around here. Pay attention fooks because now you’ll finally discover what real Dutch people look like. Oh, wait, I already revealed that on the right here…

The event in Saint John was officially hosted by the CBC and despite the fact that it was a fairly underexposed event, it was attended by heavy-weights like the mayor of Saint John, Ivan Court (who had an excellent straight-forward speech about the economical value of immigrants), NB’s own Harry Forestell and an RCMP constable in full ceremonial dress. There were a host of other media people present, I saw the people from the regional newspaper around (I missed an opportunity to make a photo of one of the photographers). But mostly, this was about the immigrants who became Canadians: there were 62 of us from the different continents and countries.

As a new Canadian to fellow Canadians, stop drinking that Molson and drink real beer like, uh, Moosehead or something. Additionally, from now on, I won’t call your favourite sport ‘ice-hockey’ but just ‘hockey’.

Welcome to the internets

I read Something Awful’s ‘Deadly Premonition’ review the other day: many other gaming review sites have called this game ‘horrible’ to ‘outrageously bad’ (see Metacritic). Obviously, the makers of the game (age check required) were Twin Peaks fans, as some of the reviewers noted, as it features twins, absurd story lines and an FBI agent. Also, if you’re a Twin Peaks fan, you’ll recognize the photo in the screenshot above (if not, here ya go). Too bad the game is only released for the XBOX 360 platform.

I’ve only slightly followed the NoSQL movement and mostly because it was linked to from one of the mails I get from the Postgres mailinglist. I’m not certain how people can call databases ‘non-scalable’ when most serious databases (including MySQL, I guess) have been around for ages. If you can’t get the right performance out of a database, you probably have to rethink your indexing strategy and if you’re too lazy to do that, you’ll probably end up at in the NoSQL corner. But seriously, this in fact doesn’t mean that SQL servers are becoming outdated and I don’t think they will just yet.

I also read that the PM is looking to replace the current governor-general, Michaelle Jean (the official site). I think she was appointed by Paul Martin in 2005: I was certain that the GG was there for life (or until they resign/retire). From all the suggestions in that CBC article, I find only William Shatner a compelling candidate1. The other ones, not so much.

1 Uh: on preview maybe not…

Not so, so.

It appears that the US NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) watered down the Iranian threat saying that ‘it has high confidence that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 but that it was continuing to enrich uranium‘. This (of course) goes against all the signals that the current Bush administration has been sending to the press. Even at this stage, the President says that we should see this report as a ‘warning signal’. I recall other warning signals.

Earlier, Schreiber testified for a federal committee and promised fireworks: in short, his allegations suggest that a former Canadian Prime Minister improperly acquired large sums of money. There’s a another side to the story: for years Schreiber has been fighting extradition to Germany, where he’s wanted for tax evasion.

We had a major storm heading our way last night and the snow outside looks a bit strange this early. I expect this snow to be hanging around here until Spring 2008.

Off-Key

Yo. Boris Yeltsin died. The Tillman hearingsI can’t exactly remember how he became president of Russian Federation but I recall seeing video of Gorbachev’s last words as the official leader of the former CCCP. That was probably close after the August Putsch of 1991. Those were weird days.

I was briefly following the Tillman hearings (Crooks and Liars video) and read up on several statements (and more photos). I picked out the photo above because normal Americans are expected to make a sworn testimony and US government employees are apparently not. And then the LA Times comes with a report that says that the Office of Special Counsel will investigate the political activities of the Bush administration. (Oh dear)100

Closer to home, the CBC wants you to help find the Seven Wonders of Canada. You can nominate your favourite landmark right on that page too.

And, I guess, the biggest news comes from Europe, where astronomers claim they’ve found a planet that most likely resembles Earth and is only 20 light-years away1. The discovery is, for sure, a milestone in planetary research and the search for extraterrestrial life.

1 A light-year is the distance that light travels in one year, which approximately is 9.45 trillion kms (9.45 x 1012) (wikipedia). There’s nothing magic about this number: if you take the speed of light (in m/s) and multiply it with the amount of seconds in a year you get 299792458 * 365 * 24 * 60 * 60 = 9.45×1015 m, which we can convert to KMs by dividing that number by 1000 (Google calculator)

Stats, Canada

You may have noticed that the results of the Census 2006 were officially released today. If you plan to dive in the numbers yourself: The Flash version at CBC’s is god-awful: for a good overview, you may just as well head over to the Stats. Canada site (PDF version).

Remarkable findings:

  • The current Canadian population stands at 31,612,897
  • The rate of Canadians born is lower than the rate of immigrants moving over here.
  • Ontario took half of Canada’s growth (the sum of the two factors above).
  • Canada’s population is getting more urban.
  • Alberta has the highest growth rate.

tech>he>d

Last week, I read about the Canadian Tax problems, which forced the Revenue centre to shutdown operations because of ‘inconsistent’ data. I hear that they expect to be up and running starting next Thursday. Earlier, via the Postgres mailing-list, I read that the problems were more in the ‘design’ of some of the internal tables, which (of course) started a whole discussion about the lack of professionalism in the industry:

CRA spokesperson Jacqueline Couture said the problem resulted in scrambled information in electronic tax returns. For instance, in some cases the field for the social insurance number was instead filled in with a birth date (ed. What, you mean, these weren’t strongly typed fields?)

If your stomach can bear it, the postgres thread follows right here.

Alfons reminded me of XSLT, which is an XML language used for transformations. XSLT comes in handy when you have to convert from one XML format to another. Obviously, his choice of flavour nowadays is XML and (good for you), C# comes with good XSLT support too. Earlier last year, I was looking into the XBRL standard.

I also found out that Berkely DB has been a part of Oracle (since when?). Better yet, Oracle released the Berkeley DB XML as open source too. It’s a good 52 MB download.

On the flipside, recently, I have played with SQLite, which is a highly portable (multi-platform) embedded database engine. It’s so good, that it has been thrown in the Public Domain. And yes, apparently, the designer was heavily inspired by Postgres.