On the lack of climbing starfish

13 09 2014

Today was a near perfect day, weather-wise. Not too hot, clear sky, gentle breeze. The sort of day people get married on.

I went for a walk down to the White Rock pier. Years ago, I used to walk there almost daily. Now it’s a rare visit. I didn’t see a single person I knew. Very odd, given that I’ve lived in this town for almost exactly 13 years now. Gone are the days when I used to meet many people I knew, despite being a relative newcomer. The town has grown. Its demographics have changed a lot in that period. I feel like a tourist or transient visitor to the beach area now. The pier is always a special walk though. You cross the train track, which can trap you on the pier for several minutes if a freight train should happen to pass whilst you’re on the structure. But the end of the pier ends at a breakwater, built to shelter some boat moorings. It’s a great place for the kids to fish for bullheads or crabs, and brave/stupid pier-jumpers leap off in an effort to test the adhesion of their bathing attire.

The best bit though, is looking for the starfish. Pacific north-west starfish come in many hues of orange/red/purple. They’re fascinating to watch as they spread-eagle themselves and climb the wooden supports or the rocks of the breakwater. At low tide a few are totally exposed, but most find cool sun-hides under the rocks, or in the deep shade of the pier’s wooden members.

Here’s a photo from 2008 when I was privileged to go on a yacht with a friend to the local “Gulf Islands”. You see what I mean about the hues and splendour of their graceful forms?

Bundle!

Anyway, today there were none. Not one. Not even a boring grey/green one. Nothing. Pondering this lack of starfish, I realised I’d not seen any on my recent amazing trip to Haida Gwaii either. The sea in White Rock looked a little murkier than I remembered in previous years. A little more green and weedy. The sea at Haida Gwaii though was pristine. I doubted it was pollution causing the lack of starfish.

So then I walked back up the steep Oxford Street and checked the web. The web never lies, right? OK – so it does quite a lot really, so I made sure to check a reputable site… like the CBC. It seems there’s some mystery illness decimating starfish in the PNW. All the way from Alaska to Mexico. Whatever it is, it’s simply dissolving them: they turn to goo, and float off as fish food nibbles… Ebola for starfish!

CBC: Sea star wasting away

The whole story can be found on the CBC web site here.
Seems the scientists aren’t too concerned due the rapid rate of their breeding, but even so – it’s sad to not see one starfish climbing up, in all its glory.





Marketing and what we put in our mouths

13 09 2014

I work in marketing. The Betty Crocker example at the beginning of this video was used by myself only the other day as an example of how “knowing your market” can make a huge difference to a product’s success.

“Kate Cooper” the marketing consultant is in fact an actress, but the information in the talk she gives is real, and the audience had no idea what they were in for. So their reactions and facial expressions are also real.

The third marketing tool – the “killer” secret weapon – is also very real. It’s not true for just food, but food is one product we should all make active choices about to a much higher degree than we do.

If you need more persuasion… read the novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. She defines the trilogy not as Science Fiction (“talking squids in outer space”) but Speculative Fiction (“a work that employs the means already to hand and that takes place on Planet Earth”).

eTalks – The Secrets of Food Marketing – YouTube.

The message isn’t that eating meat is inherently a bad thing. It is that the powerful desire for making money (a totally artificial human construct) coupled with the wilful gullibility of the general population lead to some pretty horrific results. A theme taken up and run with in Atwood’s trilogy.

I use the website goodreads.com to track the books I read and learn of books I might like to read. I have read several books relating to the history of a single narrow subject. For example Salt and Cotton. Goodreads therefore suggested I might like a similar book, related to Twinkies. It seems the author was shocked to read that several of the ingredients (at least the ones the manufacturer is forced to divulge by law on the label) begin life as various mineral rocks or even petrochemicals. I have a natural aversion to highly processed foods for just this reason, though do freely admit the lure of Salt Sugar Fat can be a powerful one.

Goodreads.com - Twinkie, Deconstructed

As a high school student in the UK, I took an elective course on “pollution”. The first case study was about Alcan (now part of Rio Tinto) and their Aluminium mines in my now adopted country of Canada. No shocking surprise there. Pollution was rife (this is ~1980), with images of huge lurid, toxic tailing ponds. And this was before the Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley disaster! If you doubt the impact of even the most “sensitive” mining operation, try a google search of images of Highland Valley Copper. And they’re one of the best managed operations – particularly with respect to reclamation. Owned by Teck, if you cared. I hadn’t seen fluids that bright since messing with Copper Sulphate in high school!

The second example was colourants and brighteners in frozen peas. Naturally “blanched” frozen peas just “don’t look right”, whereas peas soaked in chemicals look “how people expect”… like they do on the (plastic) packaging. This was an early wake-up call to me as a teenager. It also helped me look at pollution in a different light. Much of it was wilfully accepted as “normal”. The UK and the EU have had reasonably broad food labelling in place for many years now (I’ll pass over how the French managed to get frogs defined as “fish” to allow their farmers to claim fishery subsidies for their odd food tastes.). The regulation of additives is way more stringent than here in Canada (where I am still horrified to find lurid blue sweets and “energy drinks” with dubious substances being consumed by future diabetic kids). But it’s still far from perfect.

We eat 2.5kg of food additives a year, on average. And it’s totally OK, because the manufacturers are now forced to tell us… but we buy it anyway. Wilful ignorance. I was once taught that a market gets the suppliers it deserves… in the same way as a democracy gets the government it deserves. If you want cheap food… you’ll get it. Just don’t expect high quality.

I recently read about a Chipotle fast food restaurant in the US being closed down when the staff all walked out demanding a “fair wage”. The author of the piece pointed out what the food prices would need to be to support those higher wages. And in a job market where the positions could be filled for even LESS than Chipotle were currently paying, the protest seemed ill advised at best. Pointless at worst. The US (and let’s be fair – the West in general) has come to expect easy access to cheap consumer goods – including food. Few, if any, questions asked. If we cared more about working conditions and food quality… we wouldn’t complain about the price necessary to provide that. These things need to be in equilibrium.

The same teacher also took us for Organic Chemistry lessons. When learning about nickel as a catalyst for various chemical reactions, he calmly mentioned that when he was a youngster, it wasn’t uncommon to find bits of the metal in your margarine. It was, after all, a manufactured chemical product. The metals were used to allow the various hydrogenated bonds to form and allow the liquid oils to form more of the fatty consistency we choose to put on our bread. It’s not actually a petro-chemical as some would have you believe, but pretty much any animal or plant oil can be used as a starting point. Again – best not to ask too many questions…

Wikipedia: Margarine

As an adult, I now work for Océ, part of Canon, and involved in digital printing and the graphic arts. Océ though used to make food dye – as long ago as 1865 in fact. Specifically the types of yellow dye you add to the pale creamy white (think: lard) factory-manufactured chemicals formed by metal catalysts, in order to make it look more, er, natural! Like butter substitutes “should” look.

Sleep well tonight, won’t you? And when you pour your cereal in your bowl tomorrow, forget reading the newspaper. Read the box! It really will be educational.





I’d be up for it…

11 09 2014

Would you?

Japan’s Burger Kings Sell Black Burgers Colored With Bamboo Charcoal And Squid Ink | Bored Panda.

Black BurgerKing





Did Apple Just Rip Off OK Go’s Music Video?

10 09 2014

Hell yes!

I went to see OK GO live in Vancouver a few weeks back. Their music is great, but their video work and live performance is amazing. Such innovative visuals. Remember the treadmills? They even managed to do a 3D optical illusion live in the theatre… for the entire audience!

Check out the piece on Mashable: Did Apple Just Rip Off OK Go’s Music Video?.

Basically Apple approached OK GO to do a piece for the recent iPhone 6 launch. Discussions went nowhere, so Apple just ripped off their style and video anyway…. classy!

OK GO video (Thanks youtube):

Apple video (Thanks again youtube):





What do the Grind Mountain Categories like Everest mean? | TodoVancouver

7 08 2014

Just finished my 27th ascent of Grouse Mountain (plus a handful of snow-shoe grinds too).

Because I pay the extra $20 to have a “grind timer” it records my speed and the metres of ascent. I actually do the BCMC trail rather than the Grind these days. The Grind is just too busy and I find the Lululemon too, er, distracting.

Once you get to the top there’s a TV screen listing that day’s results. Last week, I noticed a lady had done it 4 times that day… the slowest in 38 minutes!

A few weeks ago I noticed my name was no longer accompanied by “Mt. Elbrus” but now had “Mt. Kilimanjaro”. According to this blog entry, I have a mere 24 more to do before I get “Everest”.

What do the Grind Mountain Categories like Everest mean? | TodoVancouver.

Here’s the whole list:

  1. Mt. Kosciusko, Australia – 7300 feet, 2228 metres – 3 grinds
  2. Vinson Massif, Antactica – 16050 feet, 4892 metres – 6 grinds but need 9 total ( 3 from No.1 above plus the 6 for Vinson)
  3. Mt. Elbrus, Europe – 18510 feet, 5642 metres – 7 grinds, 16 total
  4. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa – 19341 feet, 5895 metres – 7 grinds, 23 total
  5. Mt. McKinley, North America – 20320 feet, 6194 metres – 8 grinds, 31 total
  6. Mt. Aconcogua, South America – 22841 feet, 6961 metres – 9 grinds, 40 total
  7. Mt. Everest, Asia – 29029 feet, 8848 metres – 11 grinds, 51 total




A thorny case for Sherlock Holmes – UK in USA

7 08 2014

August 1st is Yorkshire Day, but also marks the Battle of Minden in 1759. The 51st Foot (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry), now part of The Rifles took part, and subsequently wore a white rose of Yorkshire in their cap to commemorate the day.

Now, some mysterious person sends 6 roses (to mark all the British regiments taking part) to the British Consulate General in Chicago every 1st August. Nobody knows who…

The game’s afoot!

A thorny case for Sherlock Holmes – UK in USA.

FCO - Minden Day roses received in 2010





Pyramid Power

23 07 2014

Only the English (well, Tata from India and Anglo-Dutch Unilever) could go to court over tea bags!

The flat capped Yorkshire (Indian?) tea folk lost to PG Tips’ “superior” brewing pyramids.

So it goes.

PG Tips triumphs as ASA rules pyramid teabags make better cuppa | Business | theguardian.com.

A cup of cha – via The Guardian








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers