Excuse Me Sir, You Need To Check That Pipe Bomb

I’ve been known to ponder differences between Canadian and American culture;  I try to comprehend – at the very least gain a sympathetic mindset for opposing points of view. Our cultures dictate behaviour, actions based on accepted norms – our countries so alike yet worlds apart on certain issues. I stand my ground when gun legislation or civil rights surface; along the way learning to appreciate why Americans want a firearm under the bed. I get it – along the way cautioning myself to think before shooting my mouth off. There are two sides to any debate, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Keeping my mouth shut, concentrating on similarities rather than stirring up divisive chit chat worked for a while. I’ve been so good it hurts – becoming a better person for it.

Today’s news broke my resolve – this is just too good, too Canadian to walk away from. On Sept.20, what appeared to be a pipe bomb in a piece of carry on luggage was removed from 18 year old Skylar Murphy at Edmonton International Airport. Initially the security screener returned the device to Murphy. Other security personal stepped in and confiscated the bomb, allowing Murphy to board his plane. The incident wasn’t reported to the RCMP for 4 days. Holy crap Canada. On Sept. 27, Murphy returned to Canada. He was arrested, charged with possession of illegal explosives, fined $100 and given a years probation.


Meanwhile, Canadians wanting to make a  short hop across the border for a weekend get-away – better not have condoms in their purses. A female university student from Vancouver was detained by U.S. customs 3 times over several weeks. The first detention undoubtedly explain the rest. Vermont border guards took exception to lingerie and condoms in her bag. Questioned for hours, missing her plane to Nashville, and unbeknownst – flagged. A few weeks later leaving Montreal, all it took was a scan of her passport to find her once again seated in a interrogation room. They wanted to know how much the man she was travelling with paid her. Her story which I’ll link below is worth reading – long story short – they let her go “this time” for telling the truth. Truth being the man she travelled with was married – and not to her. Following their Aruba vacation it was border guard time. Please read her story – she puts it more eloquently than I ever could. Lets just say, she was sent back to Aruba and told if she ever tried entering the U.S. again without an official waiver she would be banned for 5 years.


Moral of this ponder – Canadians loose their pipe bombs but aren’t arrested and given a $100 fine until after their pleasant vacations. Canadian girls packing condoms or undergarments other than granny panties had better be prepared to face moral justice – justice dished out by border guards with nothing better to do. Holy crap.

Robert Pickton

When the name Robert Pickton hit the news today, two silent years after conviction stripped his name from the front page – I stopped to ponder evil. Not mental illness or crimes of circumstance; pure, unadulterated evil.

Born in 1949, Pickton lived on the family pig farm in Port Coquitlam B.C. with his brother Dave. Fond of picking up prostitutes and drug addicted women on Vancouver’s downtown east-side, luring them to his farm with promises to “party” was a well know fact on the street. During the 90’s women started to go missing. In 1997 Pickton was charged with attempted murder; after driving a prostitute to his farm and having sex with her, he put a handcuff on one of her arms while stabbing her in the stomach. She stabbed him back, both ended up at the same hospital, nurses removed her handcuff with a key found in Pickton’s pocket. In 1998 the charges were dropped – prosecutors believing testimony from a drug addicted prostitute too unreliable. Clothing and rubber boots Pickton wore to the hospital sat forgotten in a police locker for 7 years. In 1999 police were tipped that Pickton had a freezer full of human flesh at the farm – he was interviewed but no search took place.

In February of 2002 police obtained a search warrant for the Pickton farm based on allegations of illegal firearms. By this time so many women had disappeared the B.C. Missing Women task force had been formed. During the firearms search they found an inhaler belonging to one of the missing women. A second warrant under the Missing Women Investigation lead to his farm “sealed” by R.C.M.P,  Pickton charged with firearms violations, released and put under surveillance.

On February 22, 2002 Pickton was arrested and charged with 2 counts of first degree murder. October of 2002 the count was at 15, by May of 2005 he had been charged with 27 counts of first degree murder. Pickton was reported to have confessed 49 murders to a cell mate, sorry he got “sloppy” as he wanted an even 50.

Forensic teams weren’t looking for bodies; anything resembling a body had been ground up and fed to the pigs. The property was taken apart piece by piece, soil and rubble put through sifters in attempts to find teeth or small bones for DNA analysis. Those rubber boots sitting for 7 years had DNA from 2 missing women.

The trial began in January of 2006 – Pickton pleaded not guilty on all 27 counts. The judge dismissed one count, divided the remainder into a group of 6, another of 20 charges. The actual jury trial started January of 2007, for the first time a publication ban was lifted; Pickton facing the first 6 murder charges. I’m not going to write details of the crowns opening statement – descriptions of body parts mutilated for his amusement are public record if anyone feels they need to know more.

In December of 2007, the jury found Pickton not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of second degree on all 6 counts. Canadian law carries punishment for second degree murder as life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 – 25 years. The judge imposed the maximum – life with parole possible after 25 years.

In 2010 the Vancouver police and RCMP issued an apology for the way missing women investigations had been handled. A official inquiry called the Missing Women Commission made its findings on law enforcement screw-ups public in 2012. The crown decided not to take Pickton to trial on the remaining 20 counts, their logic being no greater outcome would result above his existing sentence. Families of these victims understandably distraught over losing a chance to face him in court. There remains 80 unidentified DNA samples – half men, half women. Evidence for additional charges of murder exist but the crown is done with Robert Pickton.

Pickton appeared briefly via video link in court today – it was a hearing to determine if the city of Vancouver or the Province would pay legal fees for families involved in the lawsuit. Pickton’s response – “it didn’t really matter to him”



Kinder-Egg Travesty

Why can’t toy manufacturers leave well enough alone? Without a doubt, toys are divided along gender lines – fair enough – in principle. Little girls like caring for baby dolls, boys love pushing trucks through the sandbox. Between these poles lies a vast world of gender free play and imagination.

What baby didn’t have a set of wooden blocks, floating bath tub toys or stuffed animals; gender neutral beginnings, understandably parting ways as kids get older. My daughter loved mermaids and unicorns, my sons trains and trucks; perfectly natural, part of growing up. My ponder takes no issue with gender based toys – at least not in this post. My irritation stems from that sea of gender neutral fun that once nestled between the two. Ingeniously simple play, accessible regardless of gender.

Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky, Play Doh, Lego, Kinex, Brio, Playmobil, and Kinder Surprise – examples of non specific gender marketing – simply great toys. Toys that didn’t have to be pink or blue, toys that any kid played with. I’ll be generous by forgiving pink Etch-A-Sketch or Slinky; attempts to jump start sales in a ToysrUs, mega-store era. I’m not sure what was wrong with Mr. Potato Head but suddenly there was a Mrs. Play Doh began marketing gender specific “play sets”, Lego introduced “Lego Friends”, specifically for girls – gone was square head Lego man – replaced by ridiculous plastic bimbos, kittens and puppies.

Kinder Surprise for girls was too much; the travesty responsible for pushing me over the edge. Kinder eggs began in 1974, the brain child of Ferrero – put a toy inside a chocolate egg. Billions sold, thousands of different toys inside the yellow capsule – really cool surprises waiting to be assembled. High quality, clever little gems – often silly, but never totally lame. You never knew what that yellow capsule would give up – one thing for certain, it wasn’t guaranteed to be a ring, hair accessory or plastic princess. At least not until Kinder for girls came along.

We always buy Kinder Surprise to put in Easter baskets and Christmas stockings. My kids are adults now yet they still look for that foil wrapped egg. My husband had no idea of Kinder’s gender split when inadvertently picking up eggs wrapped in slightly pink foil – they keep their gender packaging subtle. Horror gave way to outrage as egg after egg revealed disappointing centers.

The logic behind gender specific everything eludes me. Girls liked square head Lego man, and took no offence with Mr. Potato Head. Girls don’t need pink paper or ridiculous depictions of girlish nonsense at every turn. There used to be a realm of toys children played with because they were great toys. Once upon a time, a world of non-gendered fun entertained generations of kids. I wish someone would tell marketing nit-wits to leave well enough alone.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

When pondering ancient history, few people would consider weapons of mass destruction. Poison tipped arrows hardly qualify, at least not in our modern context of WMD. Defined as chemical, nuclear or biological weapons capable of causing indiscriminate death or injury on a large scale – hardly the image in mind when picturing Roman legions, Greek soldiers, or Hannibal’s army crossing the Alps.

Think again; the first historical documentation of WMD use was 590 BC when the Greeks poisoned water supplies for the besieged city of Kirrha, using extracts from a toxic plant, Hellebore. Roman, Manius Aquillius poisoned wells of besieged cities in 190 AD. Throughout history, conquest by plague or disease has always been a popular course of action. Hittite literature from as early as 1500 BC, documents driving people infected with Tularemia into lands they had their eye on. Why waste soldiers when disease can do the work for you. Middle Ages saw corpses of plague victims catapulted over defensive walls. History documents assault by disease as late as 1710 in Europe when Russians stormed the Swedes at Reval, tossing plague infested cadavers over the walls. Lets not forget the Americas – however inadvertent at first – smallpox proved a mighty WMD once invaders understood the implications.

Historical accounts of poisonous snakes tossed onto decks of enemy ships, scorpion filled baskets catapulted over enemy walls, fire,  and poison arrows – while nasty, don’t fit my perception of a WMD. Weapons of mass destruction are much uglier than that; they target without conscience, attack innocents without mercy and speak to the ugliness of humanity. WMD’s are the “final solution” – that moment when a line is crossed – win at all costs, casualties irrelevant.

A few days ago I heard something that resounded in this pondering mind. Watching a documentary on evolution, the question posed was “why is man the only species that evolved into what is known as mankind”. The answer – while clearly lacking a definitive explanation, came back with this – the shark has ruled the oceans for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s brain virtually unchanged, not getting larger or evolving because it doesn’t need to. Sharks are the perfect killing machines,  senses heightened to suit their purposes – larger brain not required. Mankind “evolved” purely because it was that, or become dinner for superior predators.

The problem with our “evolution” is the WMD mindset. Sure, our big brains can create wonders unimaginable to lessor species – but who cares. Ultimately we use our evolution to win at any cost; collateral damage deemed acceptable. We haven’t learned from history, show no evidence of changing our ways, and squabble over issues that should have been irrelevant by now.

A million years from now, I bet those same sharks will be swimming about the oceans. Swimming long after mankind has imploded, long after one WMD too many wiped us off the face of the earth.


Polar Vortex and Ice Quakes

My west coast Canadian corner doesn’t worry much about Canadian winters. Vancouver rests in a rain forest; it snows a few times every winter – mostly we suffer seemingly endless days of gloomy skies accompanied by relentless rain. As I write, rain assaults my bedroom window, winds beat bamboo against the house, with no end in sight – just another winter night.

Weather forecasters love giving names to localized trends or patterns. Vancouver best known for the “pineapple express” – torrential persistent rains associated with southern airflow. Pacific frontal systems, arctic highs or lows – depending on where the jet stream chooses to hover. Nothing too exciting; forget blizzards, ice fog, snow rollers, lake effects snow, Chinooks or tornadoes. I’ve come to terms with this fact – for a weather, particularly storm fanatic – I settled in a most uneventful region of the country. My sister in Saskatchewan lives Canadian weather extremes for me, I hardly ever drool anymore over weather phenomenon playing with the rest of my country.

At least not until news of polar vortexes, ice quakes and backdoor lows hit the news. It simply isn’t fair – these terms blew my meteorological mind – like something out of the movie Day After Tomorrow, where did polar vortex causing ice quakes come from? Ice, or frost quakes are extremely rare – caused by very cold temperatures forcing ground ice to expand and crack rock. Holy crap – time to do some research.


I had no idea polar vortex, also known as polar cyclones where an ever present global fixture. Located at both geographical poles, these cyclones hover in the troposphere and stratosphere. They strengthen in winter and ease back in summer, depending on the difference in temperatures between the equator and poles. A weak polar cyclone causes extreme cold weather “outbreaks”, and is associated with ozone depletion.


Pondering arctic vortex rotation and ice quakes as rain pelts my window may seem silly – I don’t see it that way. I may be a rain saturated weather nut pouting over Toronto residents rude awakening courtesy a series of  rare frost quakes last week; at the same time, I’m flabbergasted by weather terminology that somehow flew beneath my radar.

I’ll come clean by declaring how tired I am of rain, how refreshing a jolting ice quake would be, and how exciting a notion polar vortex is. I’ll admit my sour grapes over weather kicking the ass of every Canadian but myself makes me grumpy. Emotions aside – we need to wake up – this world of ours rests on some pretty crazy circumstances.

Image – ksj.mit.edu

Passionate Eye on Putin’s Games

Putin can wait a moment while I ponder Passionate Eye. As a Canadian growing up in the bossom of CBC television and radio, my countrymen and I came to expect honest investigative reporting and “facts” rather than conjecture or speculation. When CNN and Fox News forever changed news programming and format; Canadians couldn’t be fooled for long – we like our news in plain brown wrap, securely tied with a sturdy string – we value the content, not glossy paper or glittering bows.

This is why CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) voice is where I turn for stories like the one that aired on Passionate Eye. No prime time hype, snippets of glossy sensationalism interrupting regular programming; simply a quiet little documentary, packing a big story. A story shattering the integrity of the International Olympic Committee; one that has me pondering why we would expose innocent athletes to political games.

I have a hard time deciding how to even put this gong show into words; from a “Passionate Eye” perspective, I’ll start at the very beginning. Russia is a vast country, one you would have to search long and hard to find a place without any snow in winter. A tiny little sliver  is considered “sub-tropical”, a resort destination, complete with sandy beaches and palm trees – Sochi – a place that never dips below 10 degrees Celsius in winter. Sochi’s mayor heads the local organization for “beach sports”, the area is surrounded by nature preserves catering to summer activities. Olympic village is 50 Kms from Sochi, and Krasnaya Polyana where alpine events are supposed to take place – another 50 Kms from the village.

Not insurmountable obstacles for an earnest country without many options, or perhaps some infrastructure in place. Putin cares little for such things – he liked the area, thought it was “comfortable and friendly”, liked skiing at Krasnaya and said money be damned. However hair-brained or bat shit crazy it seemed, his mind was set; he would have his Olympics at Sochi.

I couldn’t start to explain all the allegations from this point – only by watching the link below could anyone begin to grasp the farce of this black comedy. From Putin wining and dining each and every Olympic committee member before announcing his bid, flying ice to Guatemala for a “gala” prior to the Olympic committee announcing  the bid winner, involving wealthy Russian businessmen as “partners” in attempts to soothe citizens dismay at the 50 billion dollar and climbing price tag, building facilities like the ski jump and luge venues on land best described as “quicksand” prone to landslides, or allegations of contractor bribes and pay-offs.


For an abbreviated over view….


I just had a lengthy discussion with someone who reminded me of the controversy swirling about prior to the 2010 games in Vancouver. It all came rushing back – concerns over destroying the habitat of a rare frog by widening the highway to Whistler, pushing low income residents out of affordable housing, and messing with our already messy commute times. Sorry – not even close to Sochi shenanigans; nothing worthy of a documentary crew producing a film deemed scandalous enough by a government, as to offer 600,000 Euros not to show it.

I can’t say Passionate Eye has all the facts, or isn’t putting a particular “slant” on the story. I can say that I believe the Sochi situation stinks. Ponder the documentary, terrorist attacks in Russia, Russian military on “high alert”, and America’s announcement it has planes ready to evacuate athletes should Sochi hit the fan. Ponder Putin’s logic – or lack of – in an Olympics that simply doesn’t make sense. Ponder the IOC, sitting in an ivory tower or perched untouchable atop Mount Olympus.

I take media – even Canadian media – with a grain of salt. That said, CBC has more integrity in its little finger than all American networks combined. I can’t shake the feeling we’re being sold swampland in Florida. In my opinion – Sochi smells like week old fish.

Sochi – image from naharmet.com

Tin Box

The tin box caught my eye; bravely perched atop piles of garbage, discarded clothing and broken furniture. It was old, probably 50’s or 60’s, a bread box in it’s day; the kind of box that sat on your grandmother’s kitchen counter. Discarded behind a derelict house; tossed out in haste or aggression, left to fend for itself in the driving rain.

My fondness for vintage nick knacks brought the car to a stop, I tossed it into the trunk with nary a thought to the contents or owner. I hadn’t noticed the weight of abandoned tin box, it didn’t occur to me to look inside . I confess it lay forgotten, weeks passed before remembering to take a look, what I discovered broke my heart – I had become the caretaker of another’s life.

This wasn’t something a person discarded when cleaning out the closet or packing for a move. Tin box protected a family history; decades of photographs and letters – smiling faces of those who have come and gone, birthday cards, best wishes lacking any hint of origin. Familiar words intended for those who had no use for envelopes with return addresses or last names. A tin guardian lost forever.

Tin box rests undisturbed in my basement; I’ve pondered long and hard how it ended up in that alley, asked myself if someone came looking for it, and agonized over my rash decision to toss it in the car. Tin box refuses to reveal a single clue as to where it came from, who might be missing it or how I can return  it safely to anyone who cares. I suspect the demise of tin box was ugly – likely a casualty of circumstance – testament to a life gone astray.

In my heart I know tin box would have gone to the dump had I not thrown it in my trunk. I understand lives fallen off the rails, tin boxes the least of your worries.  All the same – my sincerest apology tin box, I had no idea how valuable you were. I’ll keep you safe and warm and promise not to use you as a flower pot. My hope your owner has their life together is sincere, your treasure testament to a once happy family – a family that loved the one who saw you languish in that dark, forlorn alley.

Vintage bread box – sadly not my tin box since my camera is acting up, but very close to my treasured burden. Photo from primrose.blogspot.com

Why So Uppity Mr. Sun?

The new year is arriving with a cosmic marching band. The sudden discovery of asteroid 2014 AA, a mere 24 hours before slamming the atmosphere and burning up over the Atlantic Jan. 2, now sunspot AR1944 is flexing gargantuan solar muscle.

This sunspot is so huge, it can be seen as a naked eye pock mark on the sun. Minding its manners for a day or two after showing up on Jan. 1, proved too much – AR1944 is in a tizzy, soon to be facing earth and by all appearances ready to kick ass. Waiting for a possible slap from a M4- class flare that erupted yesterday, could soon be over shadowed by a for more potent flare, coupled with AR 1944 facing earth.

NOAA scientists predict a 75% chance of M-class, and 30% of X-class flares within the next 24 hours. I know it’s difficult for those who don’t ponder solar activity to fathom the power of an earth directed super spot like AR 1944. I realize these predictions come and go, most often resulting in nothing more than a few airplanes altering course and spectacular auroras. Cry wolf enough times and soon nobody pays the slightest attention.

I think of these warnings as I would a tornado watch. All the elements are in place for a really bad day-it might take shape, or if we’re lucky just rain and hail like a banshee before the sunlight lets us get on with our day. Regardless, the warning is taken seriously and prepared for.

I’ve spoken about the Carrington event of 1859 till I’m blue in the face. If eyes don’t roll they glaze over as I recite the details; a solar flare witnessed by John Carrington, one that messed with our planet so much, telegraph stations burst into flames. A solar hit strong enough that if it happened today, could wipe out power for months. No cell phones, computers, ATMs, gasoline, water, heat, lights. Forget grocery stores or banks, forget your lights coming back anytime soon.


So call me the little ponderer who cried wolf, or get your head wrapped around solar flares and all their ramifications. There isn’t a thing we can do to stop them, a major “event” will happen again – all we can do is get some emergency supplies together and not go bat shit when our precious cell phones go dark.A link to space weather warnings currently in effect, click on the colored symbols for descriptions….



Tell Qaramel

History teaches ancient hunter gatherers only began building settlements once farming and domesticated animals were part of the picture. Tell Qaramel, located in the north of modern day Syria, proves again how little we know. Baffling archaeological finds; Gobekli Tepe, Puma Punku, Varna, Derinkuyu, Piri Reis map, Catalhoyuk,Tell Qaramel – blowing conventional thinking out of the water, yet nary a splash.

Tell Qaramel was identified in the 70’s when a survey revealed mounds or “tells” at the site. The tell fit conventional thinking but surrounding area formed the basis of an archaeological head scratcher. Five round stone towers have been carbon dated to between 11,000 and 9650 BC, with no evidence of farming or domesticated animals. The towers at Qaramel pre-date the tower of Jericho by roughly 2000 years – until this discovery, the tower of Jericho was considered the oldest stone tower in the world.

I could ponder till my head hurt and still not come up with reasons why we ignore ancient history. Not so much ignore as omit; leave out references to historical evidence simply because we can’t explain or justify the finds within conventional thinking.

A joint Polish – Syrian investigation continues, professor Ryszard Mazurowski from Warsaw University, has led the dig since 1999. I can’t imagine what more it will take to snap us out of mainstream, textbook historical thinking – I do however have my fingers crossed that he finds something that finally makes history stand up and take notice – carbon dating seems to have little impact.

Image from rarelyknown.org

Where Did You Come From 2014 AA?

It’s no secret I check space weather every day; solar wind, chance of flares, active sun spots, list of PHA (potentially harmful asteroid) in the next few months. My eyes settled on 2014 AA, Jan.2, 2014, .001 LD  (1 LD = the distance from earth to the moon), 3 meters. Holy crap – this wasn’t here yesterday. Where did you come from 2014 AA? It seems I needn’t have bothered trying to calculate what .001 of 384,000 Kms. was, 2014 AA entered our atmosphere around midnight EST. Believed to have burned up over the Atlantic, somewhere off the east coast of Africa.

This rogue little space rock hadn’t even been discovered until New Years Day, 24 hours later it slams into our atmosphere. Another nugget of information presented itself – this is only the second time astronomers spotted an asteroid before it hit our atmosphere. The first time in 2008 when 2008 TC3 burned up over the Sudan, and coincidentally TC 3 wasn’t discovered until the day before impact.


There isn’t a lot any of us can do about falling space junk; I’m not pacing the floor, fretting about a doomsday asteroid. There isn’t much we could do about a sudden, unexpected projectile hurtling towards our planet. That said, I was truly shocked to learn only two asteroids have ever been detected before hitting our atmosphere. Currently spaceweather lists 1488 PHA’s ranging from a few meters to Km’s in width. Gravity and its pull, orbits, and trajectories are fickle, I’d be a much happier ponderer if we put a little more effort into more than 24 hours notice.

Image – skyandtelescope.com