Saturday, November 21, 2009

No sales tax

The Super Store has a no-sales-tax promo this weekend. The problem is that all the non-perishable sales items that I wanted to buy, such as light bulbs and detergent, were sold out. Anyway, the tax I save today comes to abt six bucks. Oh well, it's better than nothing.

A belated gift

A marriage gift I had bought long time ago was finally delivered earlier today. I joked that if the bride had waited long enough, it would have become a baby shower gift.

Pianist and Conductor - Part 2

Hurray !!! Our choir now has a pianist and a conductor ! It was a good session. I brought 20 cupcakes for all to enjoy :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Canadian Generosity

Here are some numbers from Statistics Canada, as reported by CBC National tonight:

* Canadians donated $8.19 billion to charities in 2008 — a 5.3 per cent drop from the previous year — as the recession led people to contribute a little less to good causes.

* It was the lowest annual donation figure since 2005's $7.9 billion.

* Median charitable tax claim is $250

* Volunteer work are excluded.

Sarah Palin Unplugged

She was interviewed by Oprah and reported by media, but there are also lots of groaning. I assume the sold-out book is meat-and-potato stuff for the US Bible Belt. Palin gave no clear signal whether she would put her name forward for President, or Talk Show Host.

Pineapple Express

CBC National reported just now that the North Vanc Grouse Mountain gondola is shut down because of high wind and wet weather from the Pineapple Express warm front that is hitting the BC coast. Let's hope that Mother Nature will replenish the snow on Cypress Bowl, Whistler, and Blackcomb before the Winter Olympic !!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This is IT for Michael Jackson + A Second Chance for Amy Winehouse

While I listened to Michael Jackson's music (including songs he had sung in his boyish Jackson-Five voice), I did not follow his performance and career closely. I feel sorry for the 50 years old performer who had wanted a strong come back after all the ups and downs in his life. Unfortunately, he was never given the chance.

I am more a fan of Amy Winehouse who is also planning a come back after several years of bad relationships, booze, drugs, and high-profile public incidents. Unlike MJ, Amy Winehouse is only in her late 20's and time is on her side, at least for now. Hopefully, she will clean up her act and the fans, DJs and recording industry will give her a second chance to prove herself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Man Who Stares at Goats (movie)

Tuesday is half-price at the local cinemas. So, K and I went to see "The Man Who Stares Goats". It was an all right movie, funny but also weired. But what I did not realize is that some of the characters are actually "real", with one John B Alexander who actually affiliates with Canada's National Research Council (NRC) here in Ottawa. I'll be darned !!

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Alexander

John B. Alexander

John Alexander is a retired US Army Colonel and a leading advocate for the development of non-lethal weapons. He was born in New York in 1937, and obtained a PhD from Walden University in 1980. Col. Alexander figures prominently in journalist Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare At Goats which examines the subject of New Age ideas influencing the military.

Career

He Joined the army in 1956 and retired in 1988 after serving among other things with research and development, special operations, and served as a Special Forces commander in Vietnam and Thailand. During his time in the army he showed interest in esoteric techniques similar to those explored by Lt. Col. Jim Channon in his First Earth Battalion manual. For example neuro-linguistic programming with which he hoped to create "Jedi warriors". (according to himself in his 1990 book The Warrior's Edge).

Colonel John Alexander, US Army Intelligence & Security Command, TDYed to the NSA, obtained his "Ph.D." from non-traditional New Age Walden University, was head of Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow's NIDS organization investigating paranormal sites, member of the Aviary group involved in UFO cover-up matters as orchestrated by the global power group, The Cabal.

After his retirement Col. Alexander joined Los Alamos National Laboratory where he developed the concept of Non-Lethal Defense. He conducted briefings on non-lethal warfare at the highest levels of government, participated in a Council on Foreign Relations study of non-lethal weapons and chaired the first major conference on the topic.

Currently he is a member of the (Canadian) National Research Council Committee for Assessment of Non-Lethal Weapons Science and Technology.
Alexander is a past President and a board member of the International Association for Near Death Studies, and he is a senior fellow with two DOD universities.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chinese Kung Fu Stories

On April Fool's Day in 2008, Space was talking abt how he, as a young reader, was surprised by all the cheating, tricks and deceptions in Chinese Kung Fu stories.

Here are the exchanges in his blog article "倚天屠龍記~四月一日愚人節"

Space: ... 年少時初讀金庸的武俠小說,其中之一本『倚天屠龍記』,就頗為震堪了,因為全書都是充滿着『呃人』、『瞞騙』、『騙人』的把戲。

Haricot: ... 童年有「追」武俠小說,但印象最深的卻是金庸的《神鵰俠侶》,楊個和小龍女最終也是沒有欺騙大家的情感。反視今時今日的世界,『呃人』、『瞞騙』、『騙人』的把戲卻不只是四月一日上演!!!

Link: http://mindnecessity.blogspot.com/2008/04/april-fools-dayfool.html

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A gamble is a calculated risk

Here are my comments re Horace's blog article "Dream kitchen almost comes true" in which he mentioned abt paying $5000 membership fee to get a deal from his local Direct Buy.

" ... No I do not have any concrete evidence for or against. I would assume Market Place had the resources to do the necessary research and come up with the report. I also checked up Wikipedia (some of its articles have been known to be biased and written by authours with alternate motives) which suggests Ottawa’s Direct Buy was good for blinds and shades. I don’t think I will pay $5000 membership fee to buy that. I would suggest that the integrity of the local franchise is a key factor in your decision and you should contact the local Better Business Bureau to verify. In principle, I never like pressure sales and don’t like to entertain “deals”, esp when the dealer makes the rules and controls most of the cards. Bottom line: A gamble is a calculated risk."

Inflating Grade 12 marks by some private schools, for a fee

Horace posted a Macleans magazine report abt some Canadian private schools that inflated students' marks so they could inflate their Grade 12 average before applying for admission into universities.

Macleans: “... She got a 40 per cent class mark in my course and a 90 per cent course mark from Century. She failed the provincial exam, but after her exam marks were blended with her mark from Century she received an overall 70 per cent in the course. She ended up in a prestigious science program at UBC."

Here are my comments:

The last sentence sums it up: “She ended up in a prestigious science program at UBC.” But: Did she flunk out after 1st year?

While some private schools are reportedly abusing the system, post-secondary education institutions too could find themselves in a potential conflict-of-interest situation. Many Canadian universities and colleges want to attract international students to boast shrinking local enrolments. So, it might be tempting to take the path of least resistance by not taking on the arduous tasks of investigating the admission marks. Perhaps, once the students are enrolled, then the universities’ own exam systems would be able to weed out those with inflated marks, theoretically.

References:
* "If you need better marks, some private schools are happy to oblige—for a fee" by Sandy Farran, Macleans, November 6th, 2009
* "Can high school grades be trusted?" Hevangel/Horace, http://www.horace.org/blog/2009/11/06/can-high-school-grades-be-trusted/comment-page-1/#comment-72293

The Informant (movie)

K and I went to the AMC to watch The Informant. Matt Damon's acting was pretty good and the story quite entertaining. The cost was $25 for two, and I resisted the temptation of spending another $11-12 for a pop corn and drink that I didn't need anyway.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Informant!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Final Twist

This evening, K and I went to the Gladstone Theatre to see the play "The Final Twist". Actually, the murder plot was fairly straight forward. The real surprise was reserved for the unfortunate audience who had parked on the street and found tickets on the windshields after the show.

Sensationalism in Media

There are always shock-jocks and tabloid newspaper reporters who will deliberately make outrageous and sensational statements to increase sales. For these ppl, making money is obviously more important than maintaining professional standard or integrity. They will continue to supply junk news, as long as there is a demand for it and libel risks are manageable.

(The above were comments I left at Fresh Designer's blog re: a HK newspaper's report on the Disney Theme Park to be built in Shanghai)

Link: "玩完"香港的不是迪士呢? http://freshdesigner.blogspot.com/2009/11/blog-post_05.html

Bed Time

Must not stay up late !!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rest On My Laurels

It seems to me 48 hours is the time limit beyond which I will start losing the training effect of running, weight lifting, etc. And, if I rest on my laurels for a week, it becomes a struggle to do what I normally would consider as routine.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

取他人之長補自己之短

Here are the comments I left at Michelle's blog on 26 October 2009

Michelle: 我不喜歡找到這麼多不喜歡香港的事情

Haricot: In a way, we are lucky to be able to talk abt "dislikes". In many other countries, there are no rooms for political, religious and/or gender dissent, period.I always believe in learning from others' strengths to improve my weaknesses「取他人之長補自己之短」, as opposed to "self aggrandisement" e.g.「大香港主義」"Hong Kong-centric"。

(Link: Michelle 「兩周一聚」(24) : 香港二十 (續) 20 October 2009)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pianist and Conductor

I just learnt that our conductor/pianist has resigned :(

Update: 2009-11-20 http://strongcedar.blogspot.com/2009/11/pianist-and-conductor-part-2.html

Monday, November 2, 2009

Agree to disagree, then move forward !!!

There were some heated discussions at today's teleconference. But in the end, cooler heads prevailed and we agreed to disagree. More importantly, people were willing to move forward instead of beating on a dead horse.