Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guest Commentary On The Auto Industry Bailout

Today, Between Keyboard and Chair is pleased to present a satirical commentary on the automobile industry bailout by guest 1st time blogger Aislyn Ireton, a student at Perth and District Collegiate Institute. Take it away, Aislyn.


As the North-American economy slowly slips into a recession, it is timely that the top three American auto makers would see fit to approach Congress to ask for funding to pay off debts and cover "operating" expenses. All three are asking for paltry amounts. GM needs US$12-billion, Ford is looking for US$9-billion, and Chrysler, who clearly are more thrifty, only requires US$7-billion. These economic woes snuck up on their accounting departments and became an immediate crisis so the money is needed sooner than later. More specifically, by December 31st, 2008.

Canada’s federal industry minister, Tony Clement and Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, can expect to receive the companies’ requests for assistance that will be proportional to the assistance requested of the US government.

If our government should indeed come through with the money, there are some ways that the auto makers could thank the Canadian tax payers. Each Canadian household could receive a voucher via cheap, third class, bulk mail, a for a free vehicle of their choice from one the three main corporations.

I strongly agree with this reparation because it has many perks that will boost the Canadian confidence and economy.
  • If every Canadian was to drive a brand new vehicle of their choice there should be no problem with passing emissions tests. The government could save a lot of money by shutting down the branch of government responsible for monitoring emissions testing. This would free up some money to offset the funds that they will be giving to the auto makers from the public coffers.

  • Since there will be more cars on the road, more gas will be pumped at the stations and therefore the government’s tax share from the sale of fuel should increase dramatically.

  • As travel increases the need for more drive-ins and drive-thrus will increase. Heart clinics and Tim Horton will enjoy an increase in business. With sales at an all time high, surely the need for increased staff will follow and the unemployment rates should plummet.

  • Turmoil created by the OC Transpo strike will be demolished because citizens will all have cars to get themselves to the malls. The loss of green space that will be required to expand existing parking lots to accommodate all the cars is a small price to pay.

  • This is a time in our society where family life is busy and often chaotic. Being stuck in the endless lines of traffic and daily hold-ups as a result of all the extra cars on the road, will create opportunities for the family time that used to be spent around the dinner table.

  • Canadians will appear healthier than ever. Overwhelming amounts of CO² will be released, depleting the ozone layer and thus allowing UV rays to enter the atmosphere. We will all be sporting Coppertone tans and will easily absorb more than adequate amounts of the daily recommended levels of vitamin D.

  • One of the most pressing socio-economic issues in urban areas will be resolved. No one will be homeless.
So while we are all busy enjoying the euphoria caused by the "new car" smells, the top execs can be busy dipping into the Canadian government funding to offset their astronomically high annual bonuses and making unnecessary upgrades to their "one seater" private jets. With any money left over after these expenses, they can make a last ditch attempt at saving their plants.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Was Tagged

On checking my private Plurks last week I found that Between Keyboard and Chair had been tagged by a Plurk friend, Rantz, in Australia. Now according to the rules of tagging, you have to do three things:
  1. Shout the tagger's blog
  2. Write 5 interesting facts about yourself
  3. Tag six more blogs
So the first task at hand is to shout Rantz's blog: rantz, the content of which he describes in the header as "blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah". Actually, the blog covers a variety of topics and is worth dropping by for a read and a look at his pondcam.

Now to come up with five facts about myself. You'll have to decide if they're interesting.
  1. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I've met my wife 50 years ago and have been married to her for 44 years.

  2. I'm a Linux junkie and have been running openSUSE Linux almost exclusively on my 5 home systems since 2000. I keep Windows on a partition on one laptop in order to do my taxes each year.

  3. If you're familiar with the Grateful We're Not Dead blog here's another tidbit. After I finished playing in the Mississippi River Boys in 1985, I put my guitars away and didn't pick them up for another 13 years. In May, 1998 I started attending a monthly Music Night held at the home of Gord Breedyk and Evelyn Voigt. This was a sing-along event and I played guitar to accompany the singers. Common interests with Gord Breedyk and Bruce Penniston discovered at Music Night led to the formation of Grateful We're Not Dead.

  4. I started Carleton University in 1962, dropped out in 1964 and didn't complete my BSc in Chemistry until 1976.

  5. In July 1988 I took a contract in Kingston, Jamaica for 3 weeks to teach basic computer skills to Civil Engineers. I fell in love with the country and the people and from 1989 until 2001 my wife and I used to spend 3 to 4 weeks in Kingston, Jamaica each year on holiday.
And finally, the last task: tag six other blogs. Some of these may have already been tagged, but here goes in no particular order:So with this final task completed I'll go back to sleep until inspiration hits me with an idea for the next article. At least that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

60 Years In East Africa

60 Years in East Africa: Life of a Settler 1926 to 1986.

This book is the autobiography of Werner Voigt (1905 - 1997). It is written in a flowing conversational style and is an easy read.

Werner writes at the beginning of the book:
This story is written as I remember the different episodes; a bit embroidered, perhaps. I make no claims to the historical accuracy of my account. In many cases, the names have been changed.
As a young boy, Werner Voigt dreamed of reliving the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. In 1926, soon after completing a diploma in "Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture" at the German Colonial College he found himself on his way to Bagamoyo, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in East Africa on a three year contract with a plantation. That three year contract turned into a sixty year affair with East Africa.

On arriving in Africa, Werner worked as a plantation Manager, running and constructing plantations until the funds dried up during the Great Depression. Fortunately, he had saved sufficient money to purchase land at Mufindi in the southwestern highlands in the Iringa District. Through his story he shares the hardships, rewards, jubilation and disappointments he and his family experienced: the building of his first house; the arrival from Germany of Helga, his teenage bride-to-be; their 1000 Km honeymoon and gold prospecting trek; the disappointment of the coffee growing failure and the success of their Pyrethrum crop; the eight years of internment in British camps during the Second World War; starting from scratch again as "Tenants at Will" on what had been their own property prior to the War and having to accumulate sufficient funds to repurchase the property; the death of their eldest son, Werner; the success of their tea plantation; and finally, their decision to sell the farm and leave Tanzania in 1986.

Werner's autobiography is filled with many anecdotes containing interesting details about East Africa and the people he knew and loved.

Werner sums up his lifetime in East Africa as follows:
When I arrived in Bagamoyo in 1926, I was called "Bwana mdogo" (little Mister). Later, I was simply, "Bwana". When we got our own plantation, I became "Bwana mkubwa" (big Mister). When Tanzania became independent, we were all just simple "ndugu" (comrades). Later, I became the "Bwana mzee" (old Mister) and in the last years, I was called "Babu" (grandfather). These were the symbols of a lifetime in East Africa.
This book is an interesting read and reveals details of life over the decades in East Africa that you will not encounter in history books.

60 Years in East Africa is available from:

General Store Publishing House
499 O'Brien Rd
Box 415
Renfrew, Ontario K7V 4A6

and can be ordered online as well.

A worthwhile read. At least that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Addendum (2008-11-10):
I am not the only one who found this to be a fascinating story. One of the author's daughters forwarded me reviews that appeared after the book was published in the mid 90s.
  • Betty Kilgour, Author and Columnist, A number of Betty Kilgour's books have been about her experiences in Africa
  • "On reading Werner Voigt's magnificent book, 60 Years in East Africa, I was blown away. I found myself embarked on such a magical journey of adventure, joy, sadness and love, I was unable to lay the book down.

    Told in a simple, direct, quietly elegant manner, it conveys not only the Voigt's amazing true story of their years in East Africa, but also the love and respect they feel for the African people.

    A book as grand as 60 Years in East Africa belongs in the company of such sweeping epics as ... Out of Africa - what a movie this book would make!"

  • Dave Brown, Columnist, The Ottawa Citizen. (comments in an Ottawa Citizen column about Werner and Helga Voigt)
  • "Like most uncommonly competent people, Werner Voigt saw disasters as minor setbacks. The solution to a failed crop was to try another crop. When locusts arrived by the millions, one avoided invitations to barbecues from staff members, who would be offering locusts as a delicacy. They replanted and started again."

  • Mora Johnson, Columnist, West End Flyer, Ottawa
  • "Sixty Years in East Africa is a fascinating autobiography of a person who has chosen an unusual and interesting life. I found the book difficult to put down."

  • DRB, Editor of Tanzania Affairs, Issued by the Britain-Tanzania Society, 1997
  • "This book is a rare gem ... this book is not to be missed ...

    It is the adventure-packed, gentle and moving personal story of the 60 years the author spent in Africa ...

    Do not start reading it when you are expecting visitors - you might resent the intrusion. Do not start reading it late at night (as I did) - you will miss a night's sleep! And watch out for the film that will surely follow."

Need A New Body Part? Just Grow It!

It appears that we're rapidly approaching medical procedures previously only encountered in science fiction. In April 2008 the US Defence Department announced the establishment of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) and the US government budgeted $250 million of private and public money over 5 years . The key component of this Army-led collaborative initiative was to "harness stem cell research and technology in finding innovative ways to use a patient's natural cellular structure to reconstruct new skin, muscles and tendons, and even ears, noses and fingers".

Well things have progressed quickly, and as reported in the Ottawa Citizen via Canwest News Services:
American military researchers say they have unlocked the secret to regrowing limbs and recreating organs in humans who have sustained major injuries.

Using "nanoscaffolding", the researchers have regrown a man's fingertip and the internal organs of several test subjects.

The technology works by placing a very fine apparatus called a scaffold, which is made of polymer fibres hundreds of times finer than a human hair, in place of a missing limb or damaged organ. The scaffold acts as a guide for cells to grab onto so they can begin to rebuild missing bones and tissue. The tissue grows through tiny holes in the scaffold, in the same way a vine snakes its way up a trellis.

After the body part has regenerated, the scaffold breaks down, is absorbed into the person's body and disappears entirely.

The military plans to announce the breakthrough at the 26th Army Science Conference in Florida next month.
Previous research in England (2006) had shown that nanoscaffolding could be used to grow skin for grafting in severe burn cases. And in Australia in February, a PhD student released research papers showing how nanoscaffolding can be used to repair nerve damage.

The next question is, how soon will these types of procedures be readily available to the general public?

It never ceases to amaze me, the scientific advances I've seen over my 65 years and I expect to see many more before I shuffle off this mortal coil. At least, that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bloggeries: Next Year's New Word In the English Language?

Bloggeries is a synonym for articles posted in a blog. Presumably, a bloggery would be a single blog article. The term is being promoted on the Bloggeries Blog forum. If the term is used frequently enough and starts to be used in written and oral communication without an explanation required as to its meaning then the chances of it being accepted into English dictionaries becomes very likely.

When Merriam-Webster released its list of new words for 2008, Peter Sokolowski, an editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster, was quoted in a San Francisco Chronicle article in July 7, 2008:
"As soon as we see the word used without explanation or translation or gloss, we consider it a naturalized citizen of the English language. If somebody is using it to convey a specific idea and that idea is successfully conveyed in that word, it's ready to go in the dictionary."
John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president and publisher, said the cleverness of many Web-related terms makes them easy to grasp and gives them staying power.
"There's a kind of collective genius on the part of the people developing this technology, using vocabulary that is immediately accessible to all of us. It's sometimes absolutely poetic."
So here's your chance to help promote a new word for the English language and to assist in getting it officially recognized. Start using the words bloggery and bloggeries to refer to blog postings. Use it in your written material and use it when you're speaking to people. With enough usage it will gain wide acceptance and you will have done your part in adding this term into the world's English vocabulary.

Anyway, that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How Queen Elizabeth Changed Our Wedding Date

On July 2, 1964 I proposed marriage to Helen Ireton of Drummond Center and the proposal was accepted. Helen worked at the Royal Bank in Perth, Ontario and I was working in the darkroom at Defence Research Board (DRB) in Ottawa. In August I started a full-time position with DRB at the princely salary of $3220/year. Our plan was to relocate to Ottawa after Helen received a transfer to the city. We decided that we would be married on Thanksgiving weekend: Saturday, October 10, 1964 at St. John's Anglican Church, Innisville. Planning for the wedding commenced. In those days it didn't take a year to plan a wedding. Helen's transfer was arranged very quickly and she was to start work at the Royal Bank, 90 Sparks Street, Ottawa on October 13. We located a new apartment in early September with occupancy on October 1. Seeing as I was in a new job I hadn't accumulated any leave credits so our honeymoon would consist of Sunday and Monday at our new apartment.

My father, Ed White, worked in Ottawa at Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor-General, as a greenhouse man and floral designer. Shortly after planning for the wedding started he found out that the Queen and Prince Philip would be staying at Rideau Hall on Thanksgiving weekend and he would be required to work. What to do? We could either postpone the wedding or move it to Friday, October 9. Seeing as our only honeymoon would be a long weekend, we decided on Friday.

Now I've never been much of a church goer but Helen and I had to attend for three Sundays in September for the reading of the banns. It was a bit of a chuckle to hear ourselves referred to as Donald Edward White, bachelor and Helen Isobel Ireton, spinster. Once that was out of the way with no objections raised, everything was a go.

A week before the wedding, I requested the Friday off without pay. As soon as my manager found out I wanted the day off to get married, he readily agreed and then recommended that I be paid for the day as well.

My father, being a floral designer, prepared all the flowers for the wedding. All the food for the reception was prepared at our parents and family friends. Helen's mother baked the wedding cake. A friend from my High School days, Bob Drader, agreed to photograph the wedding if I would return the favour when he was married. My long time friend and bass player for the Mississippi River Boys, Walter Cameron, was best man and his wife, Betty Cameron, matron-of-honour.

Bridal Party - 1964

The guests at the wedding were all the aunts and uncles as well as a cousin of mine, Dave McCarthy, from Toronto whom I'd met while attending Carleton University. Following the wedding, the wedding dinner was held in the basement of the United Church in Boyd's Settlement and catered by the Anglican Church Womens' Guild. Following the dinner we visited with Helen's 84 year old grandmother in Scotch Corners who had been bed-ridden for four years. We then returned to the Ireton family farm for the remainder of the afternoon and early evening. Well the chores had to be done, eh! Cows to milk, pigs and chickens to feed, horses to care for.

Helen's Grandmother - 1964

After the chores were completed we headed off to the hall in Ferguson Falls for a country-style wedding reception. Because I played with the Mississippi River Boys throughout the surrounding counties, the invitation to the wedding reception was open to anyone. Needless to say, the hall was swamped. The music for the reception was provided by a family friend, Milton Symington and his orchestra, from Arnprior. The first dance of the evening was a square dance, something that I'm sure you'd never see at a wedding now.

The First Dance - 1964

To make a long story short, this was the start to what has been an interesting, entertaining and loving 44 years.

And as a final note, as I now repose Between Keyboard and Chair, I'd like to offer my thanks to Queen Elizabeth for her role in making our married life one day longer than we expected.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Day to Remember - September 19, 1958

On September 19, 1958 my family and I were invited to a wedding reception in the Perth Town Hall for Dick Warr and Shirley Code (Happy 50th, Dick and Shirley). My parents were unable to attend so it looked like another quiet Friday night unless I hopped on shank's mare and walked the 5 kilometres to Innisville, the nearest village.

*Enter fate, stage left*. Our landlord and his wife, Art and Lena McCall, were also invited to the reception and asked if I'd like to go with them. So at 9PM that evening I was on the loose in Perth at the dance.

The first person I ran into that I knew was Ivan Malloch, an acquaintance from Drummond Center. He was a couple years older than I and had a car. We stood around an listened to the music for a while and then the band announced that they were going to play a square dance. Now being a Lanark County boy, fiddle tunes and square dancing were second nature to me so I started looking around for someone to dance with. That's when Ivan pointed out a lovely young lady, Helen Ireton, sitting along the wall. He said she was a neighbour of his and she liked to dance. She was wearing a red sweater, plaid pleated skirt and slingback shoes and from where I was standing she looked fantastic. So, young buck that I was, I sauntered over and asked this vision of loveliness to dance. And she accepted! We ended up dancing together for most of the night. Helen says the thing she remembers most about the way I was dressed is how shiny my shoes were.

That was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted 50 years. That 50 years has included being married 6 years later, moving to Ottawa, raising a son, and for the most part just enjoying life together. We've had many interesting experiences and I imagine we wouldn't likely change any of it. And through it all I can safely say, we've stayed friends.

Helen - 1957Don - 1959

So I'd like to raise a glass to Helen, my friend and lover for 50 years.

That's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Celebrity Collage

Today I uploaded my photo to MyHeritage.com face recognition site. The MyHeritage technology purports to determine which celebrities you look like or as I prefer, look like me (lucky people). You can create a collage showing your very own celebrity matches, and if you're not too smart (present blogger excepted), post it on your blog. So I figured, being Between Keyboard and Chair, to give it a whirl. And I must admit, for the most part, I was impressed with the accuracy of this software. Michael Caine, James Garner, Jeff Bridges, Liam Neeson, Elton John, Vytautas Landsbergis, Eduard Shevardnadze. They should be proud that we look alike.

But Donald Rumsfeld. Give me a break!!! How in Hell could I look like Donald Rumsfeld??? I like people. I've never wanted to declare war on anyone. I'm all for negotiation, not confrontation. There's obviously a serious bug in this program. So I ask the programmers at MyHeritage.com to correct this obvious error. Before someone thinks I might be related to Donald Rumsfeld just because some erroneous algorithm calculates that I look like him. What an embarrassing situation.

Anyway, that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tales From the Kokoda Track

As mentioned in a previous post at Between Keyboard and Chair I became interested in the Kokoda Track in Papau New Guinea when I learned that an on-line Australian friend, Ange Recchia, planned to make a trek along this dangerous 96Km trail. Well, Ange has finally returned to Australia and documented her experience. It makes a fascinating read and I'd strongly suggest that you drop by her site and follow Ange as she hikes through the Owen Stanley Range along the Kokoda Track.
  1. My Excellent Kokoda Adventure Part 1
    Ange arrives in Port Moresby, PGN. Flies to Kokoda Village. Hikes with her group to the first camp site at Deniki.

  2. My Excellent Kokoda Adventure Part 2
    Days 2 and 3 follow the climb to Templeton's Crossing & Eora Creek. Ange introduces her guide, Armstrong.

  3. My Excellent Kokoda Adventure Part 3
    Days 4 and 5 describe the terrain, the mud and the sleeping quaters.

  4. My Excellent Kokoda Adventure Part 4
    Day 6 The disaster that ended Ange's trek.
And for those who are interested here are some of the original sketch maps that were used by the Australian troops on the Kokoda Track in 1942.

And that's it for now from Between Keyboard and Chair.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Jim Prentice - Dumbass of the Year

The "Honourable" Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry, has certainly stirred up a firestorm with the tabling of the proposed new Copyright Bill in Parliament yesterday. In checking out the CBC storyCopyright law could result in police state: Critics I found that if this bill passes I'm likely on my way to being on the RCMP's Most Wanted list. From what I can see with these aged eyes, little Jimmy Prentice now ranks right up there with his boss, Stevie (Shrub) Harper. Dumbasses both. (P.S. a Shrub is a little Bush.) I'd better be careful here; maybe That 70's Show has a copyright on the term dumbass.

From what I can see, the Conservatives propose to make me a criminal because I like to record certain TV shows (including full seasons) from my satellite service and save them to a DVD for later viewing. And I'll also be a criminal because I sometimes watch a DVD (which I've purchased) on my Linux-based computer using libdvdcss to bypass the encryption. And if I rip a digitally protected CD to make a copy to listen to in my car or create a compilation CD of favourite recordings, I'll now be a criminal. And what about ripping a digitally protected CD or DVD to my Mythbuntu system and making it available to any computer in the house. And am I to be criminalized for using the DownloadHelper Addon for Firefox to grab interesting video clips off Youtube? And God forbid, what if I create a clip, attach some music and upload to Youtube?

Hey people, we're on a slippery slope here. If we let dumbass and crew get away with this then we've only got ourselves and some lame politicians to blame. It's time the people took the country back from the American lobbyists and the political hacks in the Conservative party. As far as I'm concerned, when I buy a DVD or CD or pay to download some media from the internet, it's mine to listen to wherever, whenever and on whatever I want.

Anyway, that's the view between keyboard and chair.

Related Links:

Saturday, May 31, 2008

God Bless the Lowly Dandelion

Yesterday I read an article by Noel Taylor in the Ottawa Citizen concerning the lowly Dandelion and it brought back pleasant memories of warm summer evenings sipping Dandelion Wine (and waking up the next morning with a 'God-awful' hangover).

Dandelion Dandelion Seeds

When I was a youngster growing up in the country the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) was the most colouful Spring and Summer flower. Once it matured and had gone to seed we loved to pick the dandelion and wave it in the air just to see the seeds float away in the wind. And of course they continued to flourish in abundance every year.

When I married and moved to Ottawa I found that the lowly dandelion was held in distain. Major effort and money were expended every year to eradicate this dastardly weed. Everybody wanted pristine lawns front and back and tonnes of herbicide was poured onto lawns and parks to prevent this annual display of colour and as a result we were surrounded by hectares and hectares of mundane green.

However, with next summer's forthcoming municipal ban on pesticides my favourite flower may have a fighting change within the city boundaries. And possibly we can educate city folk to the advantages and uses of this versatile plant.

The dandelion has long been recognized as a medicinal herb and is a source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as the minerals iron, potassium, and zinc

The leaves are used in salads, sandwiches, and teas. The roots are used in coffee substitutes. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine and dandelion syrup. In fact, when I last checked there were over 700,000 sites indexed on Google which referenced Dandelion recipes.

As an interesting aside, when I was preparing this article I discovered a great duo out of Winnipeg, Manitoba known as Dandelion Wine. I strongly suggest that you drop by their web site and listen to the music.

Here's a little sample: Canadian Lady by Dandelion Wine.

Have a good one,


Thursday, May 29, 2008

So, Just Where Is The Kokoda Track?

Being a good ol' Canadian boy, I'd never heard of the Kokoda Track (or Trail) until I started hanging out with some Australian friends on the Internet. The Kokoda Track is a 96Km, single file footpath crossing the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea and was the site of a major campaign during WWII. A nine part video entitled Kokoda - The Bloody Track can be viewed on Youtube. As with many events in the last century, modern day hindsight has generated some controversy as to the significance of the campaign.

Be that as it may, hiking the Kokoda Track has become a popular, if somewhat dangerous, challenge. One of the biggest problems would likely be exposure to malaria. Of the 15,000 people who have attempted the trek since 2001 there have only been two reported deaths.

I became interested in the Kokoda Track when I learned that an online friend, Ange Recchia, was planning on making the trek in June of this year. From what I've learned about Ange from her blog I can't quite picture her as the outback, walk-about type let-alone the hazardous jungle, mountain-climbing type. But I must admit I admire her determination and fortitude and wish her all the best on this endeavour. Hopefully, she'll be able to keep us advised of her progress during the hike and if so I'll be following her closely.

All the best Ange.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hello, World

Well here I go with a new blog. Harking back to my programming days, I guess the first item should be the classic "Hello, World". On my old original Commodore PET purchased in 1978 that would have been the result of running the BASIC program:

10 print "Hello, World"

What you'll likely see on this blog are a random collection of thoughts, ideas, rants, music I like to play, interesting web sites I've come across, computing problems I've encountered, and the ongoing generation of other related drivel. As mentioned in the header, if you see any factual errors here the problem is between keyboard and chair.

As a starter, why don't you drop by the Grateful We're Not Dead blog to see what I'm up to in my spare time.

That's it for now, just to get the gears in motion.

Y'all come back soon