Thursday, January 31, 2013

Balancing Stones


Almost everyone knows what an inukshuk is, especially after its use as the symbol for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Inukshuks originated in the Arctic and have been used for centuries by the Inuit and other Arctic peoples as multi-use markers, for trails, campsites, food caches, spiritual places, etc.

Ordinary Canadians have embraced the symbol with typical enthusiasm. On every drive north up Hwy. 400 to Sudbury we can spot new inukshuks, sometimes in seemingly inaccessible and steep places at the sides of the road. Surprisingly, we have never actually seen anybody building one.

Recently I was watching Coast on TVO. Coast is a British series that takes a journey around the coast of the United Kingdom, exploring the fascinating natural history, history, wildlife, and biology and uncovering unique personal stories.

One of the segments featured Adrian Gray, whose pastime is balancing boulders, not into inukshuk-style cairns but into what seems like impossible balancing acts - at unusual angles - using only the weight of the stone, gravity and patience.

How awesome are these extraordinary sculptures!

Many of the rocks contain amazing fossils, which are common in parts of the UK coast, particularly in the south around Lyme Regis in Dorset.

Here's the excerpt from Coast:

Check out Adrian Gray's website and read about why he balances rocks. Only in nature, he says, is there perfect balance.

It turns out that around the world there are many people who are captivated by the art of balancing rocks. I found James Jordan of Illinois who created the sculpture below:

Here's the eloquent Canadian Kent Avery:

And a couple of men in the Philippines who remind us that rock balancing can also be performance art:

and Bill Dan in Sausalito:

There are others too, but this post has to end somewhere! All this amazing rock balancing activity looks somewhat hazardous to me. I hope all the aficionados wear safety boots.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Phasing Out the Penny

I guess by now most Canadians have heard that beginning February 4, the Royal Canadian Mint will no longer distribute pennies to financial institutions. At the same time, businesses are being encouraged to round off the amount of cash transactions (but not debit or credit transactions) to the nearest five-cent increment.

For example, the amount of $1.62 would round down to $1.60 whereas a transaction of $1.63 would round up to $1.65. Of course tax(es) will be calculated on the pre-rounded price.

Apparently it costs 1.6 cents to mint each one-cent coin, thanks to rising metal, labour and manufacturing costs. Stopping penny production will save taxpayers about $11 million in a single year.

Many Canadians hoard their pennies, often because they dislike carrying them so unload their pockets at the end of the day. We used to find pennies on the sidewalk and pick them up, thinking, "lucky penny". Nowadays we are more inclined to leave them.

We can still spend our pennies, though, to pay for purchases or we can take them to the bank, so roll'em and use'em or, even better, donate'em!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Removing Seeds from a Pomegranate

One can say many things about Martha Stewart. She has a definite love-hate relationship with people. One thing for sure: she knows how to take the seeds out of a pomegranate. Watch this:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

From Space

This is New York City from the Space Station. Chris Hadfield points out that Central Park is clearly visible.

Every day Commander Hadfield has been tweeting amazing photos of places around the world. It's worth joining Twitter just to see them.

Here is the Suez Canal, with ships waiting for a pilot to guide them through from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea:

And here is a similar piece of geography: Istanbul where Europe and Asia meet:

How about this photo of smoke from a large fire in Australia:

And for frequent travellers, Atlanta, Georgia, with the one of the busiest airports in the world, clearly visible from the Space Station:

You Will Want to Smile

Friday, January 25, 2013

Booster Bag Scam

Do you like to travel? Or shop? Be careful where you put your bag.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wind and Ice

Look what the wind blew off Lake Ontario the other day.

This piece of shoreline is near Trenton. Strong winds blew the ice about 60 metres and have caused some serious damage to this homeowner's dock, about $30,000 worth!
Ice fishermen must be happy though. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beware Counterfeit Goods

If it seems to good to be true......don't trust it!

Not only are counterfeit goods in many cases unhealthy and unsafe, they are known to fund organized crime and terrorist groups. What goods are we talking about?

  • pirated Cd's: music and movies
  • alcohol
  • prescription drugs
  • power tools
  • light bulbs
  • power cords, circuit breakers and other electrical components
  • food and beverages
  • purses
  • clothing and footwear
  • condoms
  • clothing and footwear
  • personal care products such as aftershave and deodorant
The counterfeiting business is huge, taking a gigantic bite out of our economy and putting our own individual welfare at risk. In most cases only experts trained to spot counterfeit goods can spot them. We ordinary consumers have to rely on buying goods at reliable retailers and making sure the price we pay is the one we expect to pay, not the one we wish we could pay. For the Canadian perspective there is an excellent video here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More Boxer Love

Love this! (Sorry about the ad, but you have the opportunity to skip it after a few seconds)

and this!

and this....same puppies a few weeks later.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Deer graze on Wollaton Park in Nottingham, central England. WHY WE PICKED IT: This beautiful scene was captured perfectly by keeping the light soft. (Darren Staples /REUTERS)

This is another photograph from The Globe and Mail Camera Club. The assignment was to capture contrast between light and dark. This lovely photo which shows deer at Wollaton Park, Nottingham in central England was chosen because it captures the soft light with the deer in silhouette. The photographer is Darren Staples/Reuters.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Credit and Debit Cards

Almost everybody has at least one and most of us have more than one, credit card and bank card. Watch this video and then check your cards to see if you are at risk of being defrauded without even knowing.

4-Year Old Artist

Gwyneth Herrera of Toronto says she paints from her heart. At 4 years old, she has been painting since she was 14 months old, when she grabbed the paint brush from her dad's hand and insisted on creating something herself. Her dad, Carlos Herrera is and architect and artist who owns his own home improvement and interior design company and her mom, Ruth, is a jewelry designer.

Gwyneth has been encouraged, but not driven, by her parents, who love to take her to art galleries and talk to her about art. At the moment, Gwyneth works in acrylics and does abstract paintings which she names as soon as they are finished. She recently donated two of her favourite paintings, Ocean and Rain to Ronald McDonald House in Toronto.

From Jan. 14 to 20, Gwyneth and Carlos are having a joint exhibition of their works at Visual Arts Mississauga where there is free admission. If any of Gwyneth's paintings are sold, she plans to donate most of the proceeds to Ronald McDonald House.

Here is Rain:

and here's a video of the pint-sized painter in action.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Skirt Length Matters


Rosea Lake, a first year student at Capilano University in Vancouver, has posted a photo that was part of an art project she did last year in high school. The photo depicts a shapely woman's leg with labels from top to bottom. The labels relate skirt length to the perceptions that many in our society have of women who dress in such a way. So at the top is "whore" and at the bottom is "matronly" and in the middle, at the knee, is "proper". A thermometer of sexuality.

The response to this thought-provoking photo has been enormous. It has gone viral and women from around the world are responding. With the rape culture in other countries putting the blame on victims for not only the way they dress, but even for where they go and with whom, this attention on women's hemlines and sexuality encourages us to join the discussion and examine our own attitudes about the ways women from around the world choose to dress.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Colurful Birds

These birds certainly brighten up the long nordic winters. Oiva Toikka is a Finnish glass master who creates works out of glass for iitala, a Finnish design company and is especially renowned for his series of glass birds. Here are a few and there are more to see (with prices) at

iittala Toikka Scarlet Tanager (Fallingwater Red)

iittala Toikka Scarlet Tanager (Fallingwater Red) - Click to enlarge

iittala Toikka Black Ibis

iittala Toikka Black Ibis - Click to enlarge

iittala Toikka Blue Bird & Ruby Bird Set

iittala Toikka Blue Bird & Ruby Bird Set - Click to enlarge

iittala Gray Whooper Swan

iittala Gray Whooper Swan - Click to enlarge

Monday, January 14, 2013

Birds of Paradise

There is a newly published book, a collaboration between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Geographic that looks quite amazing.  Tim Scholes, photographer and Edwin Laman, ornithologist have produced a comprehensive look at 39 species of Birds of Paradise found exclusively in New Guinea.

Birds of Paradise are especially known for male plumage and elaborate mating dances.
These videos give us a taste of what it's all about. More information can be found here

Friday, January 11, 2013

Singing from the Heart

These guys are a barbershop singing group, enjoying their post-practice fellowship at
Timmie's with some coffee. What could be more natural than breaking into what they love to do best!