Monday, January 31, 2011

Oil Barrel: Oil prices rise right before our eyes

Many people likely saw this coming.

“Filling up your car, taking a trip, even buying groceries could get considerably more expensive as oil continues its climb toward $100 US a barrel. Today’s crude oil prices hover around $90 US a barrel, up from an average $79 in 2010.”

So began an article in the Jan. 24 issue of The London Free Press.

Surprised? Not likely, if you’ve been watching the price of oil rise steadily over the last ten years.

For those that haven’t, below is a list of the average price per barrel in US dollars for the years 2001 to 2010.

2001 - $24.30
2002 - $25
2003 - $29
2004 - $38
2005 - $53
2006 - $64
2007 - $71
*2008 - $97
2009 - $62
2010 - $79

(*2008 was a horrendous year, oil-wise, as you may recall. Average monthly prices rose to $110 or more for 5 months (over $130 for two months) and the year’s average ended at $97).

Though today’s crude oil prices hover around $90 US a barrel ($91.91 at price of and a trunkload of groceries may soon cost more than we like, we should have seen this coming a mile off.


Are you prepared for higher oil prices?

More of the Oil Barrel here.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bits and Pieces: So, if I owned a pellet gun...

I’d be half way to a pot of Brunswick or Squirrel Stew.

I’ve never tasted squirrel (I hear it tastes like rabbit. I enjoyed rabbit many times as a kid.) but, because several squirrels have formed a commando group and continually raid my bird feeders, I’m motivated to try.

[“Squirrel meat on sale in England. Yummy?”: photo link]

Because of the trend toward higher energy prices (related to oil, gas and coal costs), perhaps we should expand our tastes to include local squirrel meat.

[“Tasty Squirrel Pie”: photo link]

Would you try it?

[“Is it leaner than bison? It looks good.”: photo link]

What if beef prices double? Would you be more interested to try it once?


Rising oil costs have us over a barrel.

How far away are higher food costs and a taste of Squirrel Pie?


Zoom w a View: Shots were fired from the porch

Yesterday’s light and fluffy snow gave me reason to take several shots from the porch - with a camera, of course.

(I don’t own a gun. If I did, e.g., a pellet gun, I’d be tempted to shoot the darn squirrels that get into my bird feeders and turn them into Brunswick Stew.)

Shot # 1: The porch chair

[Photos by GH]

Shot # 2: Can you guess what this is?

Shot # 3 and 4: Boot tracks

Shot # 5: Needles on my $3 pine tree

Any thoughts about Squirrel or Brunswick Stew?


Visit more Zoom w a View here.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lite news: Very few snow days in Labrador

I received the following message recently via email:

“Kids today, they’ve got it easy.”

With the brief message came a photo of a letter to parents from a school principal.

It begins as follows:

Dear Parents/Guardians:

During the winter months ahead, the following temperatures (chill factor included) will be used by school authorities as guidelines for closing schools due to weather conditions. These temperatures assume that students are properly dressed for this Northern climate.

Kindergarten to Grade 6 Minus 68 C and lower

Grade 7 to 11 Minus 83 C and lower

Yup. Kids today, they’ve got it easy.


So, if you’re planning to move to Labrador, make sure the kids have a warm coat. A really warm coat.

More Lite News right here.


Zoom w a View: A Saturday snow day

I kept the entries on today’s to-do list short, to the point:

Coffee, write, lunch, read, paint.

A morning snowfall messed up my plans.

Read - out.

Shovel - in. Take camera.

["Where is everybody? At The Roaster?": photos GH]


More Zoom w a View right here.


Oil Barrel: Climate change and oil consumption concerns

In an earlier Oil Barrel post I mentioned the following lines from an online article:

“We are on the path to climate chaos, Big Oil has admitted.

“Both BP and Exxon have conceded that progress on climate change is totally insufficient to stabilize CO2 emissions.”

Though Big Oil is aware of climate chaos ahead, don’t expect members of the Big Oil league to work too hard toward climate change solutions. They’re busy.

And of course, in an oil-based, consumption-centered world (“Bigger is better, ain’t it?”), one shouldn’t expect progress related to climate change and carbon emissions until oil consumptions declines.

Currently, however, our global record on that front appears to be set in concrete.

Since 1984 (after a few years of decline), global consumption of oil has grown steadily each year for which I was able to find records, or for over two decades and until 2006.

E.g., Year 1984
Oil consumption, thousands of barrels per day - 57186.54 (or 57.2 million barrels)
Increase from previous year - 1.96 %

Consumption - 84002.86 thousand or 84 million barrels
Increase - 1.94 % (The jump from 1984 to 2005 is huge!)

Consumption - 84977.35 thousand or 84 million barrels
Increase - 1.16 %

[Source: United States Energy Information Administration]

I assume the growth has continued since 2006, along with carbon emissions and climate change concerns.

Though I'm not proud to say it, Canada - my home country -and the US are front and center when consumption records are considered.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “The United States is the largest energy consumer in terms of total use, using 100 quadrillion BTUs (105 exajoules, or 29 PWh) in 2005.

“This is three times the consumption by the United States in 1950.

“The U.S. ranks seventh in energy consumption per-capita after Canada and a number of small countries.”

["Rising oil prices will affect our consumption habit"]

I wasn’t aware that US energy consumption tripled in the last 55 years but I predict that it won’t triple again in the next 55 years or by 2060. Canada’s growth record is likely much the same, but because of the trend toward significantly higher oil prices in the last ten years, I think that during the next ten we’ll see a significant change in our consumption habits.

Perhaps then we can begin to hope for a future with less climate change chaos.


More information at the Oil Barrel here.


Friday, January 28, 2011

In the Workshop: Dreamin’ of more motorcycle miles

While tidying the workshop today my mind started to wander.

Each sweep of the broom took my mind farther west.

When I opened the shop door to flick dust outside and onto the deck I wished it was summer and my motorcycle was packed and in the back laneway - engine running.

["I can hear the sound of my old bike. I want to go."]

Normally, I take what I get and am happy to be where I am at the time. (Unless I’m in an expensive restaurant and it’s my turn to pay).

It’s January and I don’t mind snow and cold weather.

But I want to see Lake Superior again on my way to British Columbia. I want to sit on familiar rocks and burn toast over a campfire and watch scenery go by as my odometer counts off mile after mile.

[Photos by GH, from London to Thunder Bay, 2007]

Do I ever.


Okay, I need to more patient. Build my birdhouses. Save more money for the trip west.

Do I have cabin fever?

(Usually I’m so well-balanced. Yeah, right!!)


Zoom w a View: Things close at hand

I’m always reaching for a pencil.

[“One of my first shop projects - a pencil holder”: photos GH]

Big birdhouses aren’t tricky, just exacting in a lot of ways. Things have to fit.

My 15- and 18-inch rulers get a lot of use too.

So do sanding sticks (sand paper stapled to a piece of scrap wood), nail punches and an old putty knife (for filling nail holes on the face of the birdhouse).

I have a small work bench, but these things are always close at hand. They are small things that make life a lot easier in the shop.

What are you always reaching for in the shop or work space?


More Zoom w a View right here.


The Workshop: Nailin’, sweepin’, paintin’, dreamin'

By adding a couple of inches to the width of the birdhouse, I was able to squeeze six apartments into the top floor rather than four.

["This birdhouse could cost me money!": photos GH]

More birds may mean I have to buy more seed for the feeder on the lower floor, but that’s OK. The wood is rescued lumber, from a reno, so I saved a bit of money in the deal.

The floor was covered with dust so my trusty broom got a workout before I locked the shop up for the weekend.

I have the feeling I know what I’ll be doing with any spare time tomorrow and Sunday.

Paintin’, and dreamin’ of next summer’s motorcycle rides.

And... sippin’ coffee between coats.


Another visit to The Workshop right here.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Ask You: Did you have this much fun at age four?

Grandson Ollie turned four in December and the photo below, from his birthday party, is stuck to my fridge with a magnet.

Ollie and bestest friend Angus discovered how to operate a small disco ball and are showing off their excitement.

I ask you...

is excitement the best word?

Enthusiasm? Wonder? Youthful energy? Zaniness?

I can’t open the fridge door without a chuckle when I see the photo.

Did you have this much fun when you were four years old?


Maybe I don’t laugh as hard as I used to, but my life can be pretty darn exciting too, ya know.

Don’t believe me? Morning Vignettes right here.


Chilling 1996 Mt. Everest disaster was preventable PT 3

Lives were lost in 1996 near Everest’s summit, for reasons not all found in Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air.

Two men, perhaps more, are dead because they would not turn around and try another day.

I feel that lesson should not be lost on us - even though most will never set foot near Mount Everest.

Our daily lives are affected by social, political, physical, religious, economic, environmental (and other) frameworks, and within each we at times drive or push too far beyond our limits.

As well, we ignore our conscience or other guides, fail to make a safe retreat when the possibility exists, miss the opportunity to replenish essential resources, and subsequently find ourselves without strength or much hope for survival.

For example, here are a few sentences from A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright that reveal we may have pushed past the Earth’s economic limits:

“During the twentieth century, the world’s population multiplied by four and the economy by more than forty. If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature (but) markers suggest that in 1999 we were at 125 per cent (of nature’s yearly output).”

And is it not logical to suggest that if we push past our economic limits we slowly bleed the environment dry?

An oft-used quote from Barry Commoner tells me the environment will surely suffer as we push past the planet’s economic limits:

“Sooner or later, wittingly or unwittingly, we must pay for every intrusion on the natural environment.”

So, in the political, corporate and personal sphere, firm policies must be put in place and/or limits set to ensure resources are used in a sustainable manner, for the benefit of all now and in the future.

On a personal note:

While training for and running 13 marathons, I often strayed beyond my physical limits or ran at someone else’s chosen pace, then barely survived several of the 26.2 mile events. I hit the wall and became - on a few occasions - an ugly companion for running mates.

["Staying within my physical limits": BOSTON MARATHON, GAH]

Whether we address social relationships (marriages, friendships), economic, environmental policies, et al, we tend to push limits to the extreme and suffer the consequences.

By reading Into Thin Air, I was forced to think a bit more about where we are now, where we’re going, and how we’re getting there.


The book, and life itself, are gripping adventures, are they not?

Please click here to read PT 2 Mt. Everest Disaster.


The Workshop: Classic model 002 - time well spent

It is hard not to like working with cedar of any kind.

Once it’s dry, it cuts and sands beautifully and my small shop ends up smelling like a wee corner of heaven.

The front and two walls - solid, straight - are now attached.

[“I like the fresh smell, the good looks too”: photos GH]

I assembled and placed the second floor and roof in about an hour.

The back wall, with three holes (for a total of six apartments), and inner partitions are the next jobs on the list.

Those easy jobs should take a couple of hours this afternoon - time well spent in my opinion.


More photos from The Workshop here.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Children’s Book Pt 8: “All Dads Have Gas”

[Suitable for children of all ages.]

All Dads Have Gas

Final Words from The Author

I do hereby verify that the title of this story is completely true.

My dad had gas.

I’m a dad and I have gas.

My oldest son is a dad and he has gas.

My youngest son is a dad and he has gas.

My wife’s dad had gas.

My wife’s older brother is a dad and he has gas.

Still don’t believe me?

Just go ask your dad.

["Woof. Don't blame nothin' on me"]


Please click here to read New Children’s Book Pt 7: “All Dads Have Gas”.


Chilling 1996 Mt. Everest disaster was preventable PT 2

If you haven’t read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, a personal account of a 1996 Mt. Everest disaster, you should.

Because if you were ever to climb a mountain, or apply its lessons to other areas of life, you would be the wiser for it.

I read it recently and learned a bit about why Rob Hall, a very responsible, skilled leader from New Zealand, made a tragic mistake on Everest’s summit.

[Mt. Everest from space]

Many of his colleagues have wondered: “Why didn’t he turn Hansen (a client) around much lower on the mountain, as soon as it became obvious that the American climber was running late?”

Here’s what Krakauer reveals:

Exactly one year earlier, Hall had turned Hansen around on the South Summit at 2:30 P.M., and to be denied so close to the top was a crushing disappointment to Hansen. He told me several times that he’d returned to Everest in 1996 largely as a result of Hall’s advocacy - he said Rob had called him from New Zealand “a dozen times” urging him to give it another try - and this time Doug was absolutely determined to bag the top.

“I want to get this thing done and out of my life,” he’d told me three days earlier at Camp Two. “I don’t want to have to come back here. I’m getting too old for this shit.”

It doesn’t seem far-fetched to speculate that because Hall had talked Hansen into coming back to Everest, it would have been especially hard for him to deny Hansen the summit a second time.
(pg. 293)

Guy Cotter, a NZ guide, said this:

“It’s very difficult to turn someone around high on the mountain. If a client sees that the summit is close and they’re dead-set on getting there, they’re going to laugh in your face and keep going up.”

Peter Lev, veteran US guide, said this:

“We think that people pay us to make good decisions, but what people really pay for is to get to the top.”

Those who say that death is too high a price to pay to get to the top of the world’s highest peak are, in my opinion, absolutely right.

When Rob Hall (an accomplished climbing guide) did not turn himself or a client around near Everest’s summit to make a safe retreat toward their nearest refuge (as previously arranged), I felt that was an instance that reveals human beings and their systems fail - on mountaintops, high seas, farms, cities, Wall St. and Main St. - for some of the same reasons.

Krakauer writes:

“In any case, Hall did not turn Hansen around at 2:00 P.M. - or, for that matter, at 4:00, when he met his client just below the top. Instead, according to Lopsang (Sherpa climber), Hall placed Hansen’s arm around his neck and assisted the weary client up the final forty feet to the summit.”

“They stayed only a minute or two, then turned to begin the long descent.”

Later events conspired to make their descent extremely difficult, then impossible.

Hansen was never heard from or seen again.

[Hansen’s grave: photo link]

A lone ice ax, found near the end of fixed ropes above a 7,000 foot sheer drop, bore testimony to his fate.

Hall was heard from later that day and into the night but never seen alive again [except possibly by Harold Harris, a young NZ climber and guide, who attempted to rescue Hall and Hansen - and paid the price with his own life].

Rob Hall’s frozen body, however, remained visible to future climbers for some time near the summit.


Personal and system failures can be tragic.

What causes tragic failures?

Please click here to read PT 1 Mt. Everest Disaster


The Workshop: Classic Series Birdhouse Model 002 is underway

I don’t want to get out too far ahead of myself, but already I’m thinking that light green paint for the body and navy blue for trim will look good.

Classic colours for The Classic Series. (Note the capital letters. This is an important series. Definitely NB).

Cedar for floors and inner walls is cut and sanded.

The jig saw is ready. Six windows and one door will be cut out quickly - about 60 - 120 seconds per.

All windows are marked with quarter-inch holes to allow me to drop the jig saw blade through the wood.

The front of the birdhouse (top) is nailed to the floor (right).

One side is almost completely attached. Soon it will be ready for the second floor and roof.

Light green and navy blue. A good combo, I think.


Last efforts from The Workshop can be seen here.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chilling 1996 Mt. Everest disaster was preventable PT 1

[I recently purchased The Boys of Everest by Clint Willis. 516 pages. I can’t put it down.]

[It has reminded me of a three-part series I wrote a year or so ago about the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster, as featured in Jon Krakauer's gripping novel Into Thin Air. I repeat the series here.]

Part 1

My oldest son bought me three used books by Jon Krakauer for Christmas gifts and I was unable to put the first one down once I’d read the first page.

Into Thin Air, a personal account of a 1996 Mt. Everest disaster, sounded familiar, perhaps because I’d seen TV shows in the last few years about the same event, and I was immediately hooked even though I remembered many details related to the outcome.

I wasn’t hooked because I’m a mountain climber.

[Mt. Everest from space]

Far from it. My low tolerance for risk wouldn’t allow me to climb higher than Base Camp (17,600 ft.) on Everest (29,028 ft.).

Of course, if I became light-headed and left unwatched, I might try for Camp One (19,500 ft.) or Camp Two (21,300 ft.).

However, as a former marathoner - 13 marathons in all - I’m not confident I could develop suitable strength and endurance to even reach the Base Camp.

I wasn’t hooked because I wanted to revisit the disaster and read about gory details.

My main reason was to see if there were answers to questions I had about the climb:

What drives people beyond a point of, what I consider, reasonable risk?

Could the disaster, in which several lives were lost, have been prevented?

Would I even try to reach Base Camp?

My curiosity was partially satisfied with the following from Ch. 17, Summit, 3:40 P.M., May 10, 29,028 Feet:

[Everest route photo link]

“Shortly after Fischer (USA, leader, head guide) left the top, Gau (Taiwan, leader) and his Sherpas departed as well, and finally Lopsang (Fischer’s Sherpa climbing leader) headed down - leaving Hall (New Zealand, leader, head guide) alone on the summit awaiting Hansen (USA, Hall’s client).”

“A moment after Lopsang started down, about 4:00, Hansen at last appeared, toughing it out, moving painfully slowly over the last bump on the ridge. As soon as he saw Hansen, Hall hurried down to meet him.”

“Hall’s obligatory turn-around time had come and gone a full two hours earlier.”

When Krakauer wrote that last line I was reminded that earlier in the book Rob Hall, the leader of a large group of guides, staff and paying clients, had told everyone, no matter where they were in the last leg of the ascent, to turn around at 2 P.M. and return to Camp Four, their closest refuge.

Turning around any later would severely hurt their chances of a safe return to their highest camp.

Why had Hall waited until 4 P.M. for Hansen, the last climber on his team, knowing the risks to himself and his client were so high?

“Given the guide’s conservative, exceedingly methodical nature, many of his colleagues have expressed puzzlement at his uncharacteristic lapse of judgment. Why, they wondered, didn’t he turn Hansen around much lower on the mountain, as soon as it became obvious that the American climber was running late?”

Hall’s lapse of judgment brought about the worst of consequences.


Part 2 and 3 to follow.


New Children’s Book Pt 7: “All Dads Have Gas”

[Suitable for children of all ages.]

All Dads Have Gas

Chapter Four - Father and son finish their work

Imagine a father with his 6-year old son sitting under a big maple tree beside a garden of tall and healthy tomato plants while eating pickled eggs, apple, peach and carrot slices from a lunch pail.

Both are laughing because of their conversation about gas.

The boy says, “I just call them toots and stinkers. Maybe I’ll call them quacks too.”

“That sounds like a good word too,” says the father.

["Trains toot everyday. Do you?"]

Then he puts the thermos of water and the leftover pickled eggs and slices of food back into the lunch pail.

He says, “I guess we better get back to work. Two more rows and we’re done.”

For a short time they quietly rake weeds away from the tomato plants under the hot July sun.

Then the boys says, “Dad, does mom ever toot?”

“Yes, she does,” says the father. “But not very often as far as I know.”

“And does your dad have gas like you?” asks the boy.

“Why, yes he does. All dads have gas,” says the father.

“Really?” says the boy. “How do you know for sure?”

“Do dads eat food like we did a few minutes ago?”

The boy nods.

“And do they drink water or coffee or beer or pop like we do?”

The boy nods again.

“Then they will have gas,” says the father.

“That’s a lot of gas,” says the boy.

The father nods.

Then he hears a toot.

“Excuse me,” says the boy.

“And our work is done,” says the father.

The End


Please click here to read New Children’s Book Pt 6: “All Dads Have Gas”.


Monday, January 24, 2011

New Children’s Book Pt 6: “All Dads Have Gas”

[Suitable for children of all ages.]

All Dads Have Gas

Again, Another Interlude

The boy calls them stinkers.

The father calls them farts.

["Do you call them quacks or toots?"]

I would guess the mother calls them toots.

I call them stinkers too.

My oldest son calls them barking spiders.

["Do you call them bad apples or stink bombs?"]

I think my youngest son calls them poo-poo noises because that’s what his son Ollie calls them when he visits and passes gas.

My wife doesn’t call them anything, but she always says excuse me whenever she passes gas - which is quite often, I must say.

What do you call them?


Please click here to read New Children’s Book Pt 5: “All Dads Have Gas”.


Oil Barrel: Hear it from the oily horse’s mouth

When I want to check the current price of oil I go to price of, and while there I snoop at current articles about oil.

A recent article (Jan. 20, by Andy Rowell) caught my eye.


“CO2 emissions to rise by 25% in 20 years, says Big Oil”

Might as well hear it from the horse’s mouth, I said to myself.

I read the following:

“We are on the path to climate chaos, Big Oil has admitted.

“Both BP and Exxon have conceded that progress on climate change is totally insufficient to stabilize CO2 emissions.

“Both oil companies have just published their Energy Outlooks, and the outlook looks grim.”

Though the outlook is grim, and readers may not be looking for grim today, I recommend at least a short trip to the full article.

It is from the horse’s mouth after all.


More news from the Oil Barrel here.


Zoom w a View: If I have to go back to jail...

Let’s say I had a choice in the matter.

["Ottawa Jail Hostel - I'd go again": photo GH]

And let’s say I pull off some crime (I 'accidentally' trip some oil baron - or magnate if you prefer - in the street, right in front of his buddy, a tall, swarthy policeman) then immediately get nabbed.

What jail would I select?

The Ottawa Jail Hostel. Close to all amenities.

Perfect place to be if I get a 2-hour pass everyday.


More Zoom w a View right here.