Thursday, July 27, 2006

Skeeters Suck.

Mosquito From the Camp Sites I Frequent (Shown Actual Size)

Yep, I'm going camping again this weekend, so Mother Nature can take another swing at me. Luckily, according to this article from, I may soon be able to turn this hatred in my favour (at least where skeeters are concerned). Too little too late.

Some unfortunate people are irresistible to mosquitoes, while the scent of some lucky individuals drives the blood-suckers away. Now the smelly chemicals from the sweat of these lucky people have been identified by researchers, who are testing its effectiveness as a natural mosquito repellent.

Everybody produces a mixture of odorous chemicals in their sweat, some of which attract biting insects, such as lactic acid. But people who do not get bitten also produce smelly chemicals that appear to mask the scent of the attractive chemicals.

This masking can offer an effective camouflage against mosquitoes, explains James Logan, who carried out the research with John Pickett at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen, both in the UK.

These helpful chemicals probably occur naturally in everybody’s sweat but some people have a much higher ratio than others, Logan says.

What is more, the same benign sweat chemicals that repel the tropical mosquitoes Aedes aegypti – responsible for spreading yellow fever throughout Africa and South America – appear also to disgust the persistent biting midge that terrorises the west coast of Scotland, the researchers discovered.

Logan constructed a Y-shaped chamber and wafted the scent of different people down two of the branches by getting volunteers to place their hands at the ends. The blood-sucking insects flew from the thin end of the "Y" towards the human hand they preferred.

He then analysed the body odour of those individuals found to be unattractive by sealing their bodies in a foil sack, tied under the chin, and collecting and distilling the sweat that poured off them.

The most potent repellent chemical were then isolated by strapping miniature electrodes to the antennae of female mosquitoes and checking their responses to specific compounds. Logan will not divulge the names of the chemicals until they are patented. But he does reveal that although the scent of the chemicals is normally undetectable by humans, they have a fruity smell when highly concentrated.

“It’s very exciting," Logan told New Scientist, "because these are totally natural chemicals with an effectiveness that compares favourably to harsher chemicals such as DEET, which is the best repellent available but has unwanted effects, including dissolving plastics.”

A key chemical identified by Logan as a repellent is also "a natural food additive, so has proven safety", he says. "And because it can be made by plants, it may one day be possible to mass produce it cheaply.”

The repellent is currently being trialled with 16 volunteers in Africa. Meanwhile, the researchers are testing the repellent against other biting insects, including malaria carrying mosquitoes.

The research was presented at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London, UK, and has been submitted to a leading peer review journal for publication.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dude! You Just Recycled a Dell!

Dell has announced plans to provide free recycling of any Dell-branded product for consumers around the world as part of its new global recycling policy.

"We have a responsibility to our customers to recycle the products we make and sell," said Michael Dell, chairman of Dell. "Our direct relationships with consumers allow us to offer this easy and free service and we encourage others in our industry to do so as well."

Dell currently offers consumers no-charge recycling of any brand of used computer or printer with the purchase of a new Dell computer or printer. This service includes home pick-up of the used computer at no charge.

Under its new policy, Dell will provide consumers no-charge recycling of any Dell-branded product, regardless of whether a replacement product is purchased. The company plans to launch the service in the U.S. by September, and globally by November. It is currently available in Europe. Dell has been focused on developing market-driven consumer recycling services for several years.

"Dell is setting the standard for the industry with this new policy," said Kate Krebs, executive director of the National Recycling Coalition. "Recycling of used consumer electronics remains a challenge and Dell is taking concrete steps to remove the barriers of cost and inconvenience for consumers."

Today Dell offers product recovery services to business and institutional customers in most of its major markets including Europe and North America. The company expands product recovery services on a country-by-country basis as its share grows. Dell's Asset Recovery Services, offered to business and institutional customers, provides reverse logistics, value recovery and reporting and is available at online.

Dell's U.S. consumer recycling offer is available here and Dell's new global recycling policy can be viewed here.

New Product: Aubrey Organics

We were more or less in the area yesterday, so Mrs THIT and I stopped by this delightful little treehugger store (I'm sure they'd have a preferable name for it, but you know what I'm talkin' 'bout, yo) called Arbour. This was my second visit, and Christine's first.

Whilst the Mrs was sifting through a number of different items that she found (and I quote) "neat", I made my way over to the men's grooming section. I came across the above (click on the picture) and had my attention drawn. All right, Aubrey (if that's your real name). What's so great about YOUR product??

A fair bit, as it turns out. I tried the shaving cream specifically. It was a bit of a leap of faith, because it's kind of pricy (about $11). I had a three-day growth on me, and figured that would be a decent test.

Here are some claims:

-100% Natural Ingredients
a) Organic avocado oil and wheat germ oil to help razor glide smoothly.
b) Witch hazel (what the hell is that? Research will be required...) to soothe irritation.
c) Camphor (???), menthol and organic eucalyptus to cool and invigorate.

'kay, so off I go.

The first bit of potential weirdness is that this stuff doesn't lather. I used to have lather-free shaving cream and it takes some getting used to, I find, so I don't particularly care but be warned.

Next is the smell. You'll spend most of your shave asking yourself "what the hell does this remind me of??" until it hits you: Vick's Vapour rub. Menthol, see.

And third is when you clean your razor between strokes. This is hard to describe. It's almost like this stuff creates a film that you scrape off. So rather than see individual hairs in your sink, you'll see small clumps in a clear gel. It looks worrisome because you wonder if you didn't slice off a layer of skin (but of course, you haven't). Anyone see Gary Oldman in "Hannibal"? Sort of like that.

But when it's all said and done...damn, I really liked this stuff and I plan on seeing what else Aubrey has to offer. It really was smooth and the menthol thing doesn't bother me. Plus it'll be great to use the next time I get a cold. :-)

The container is recyclable, the product is certified vegan and no animal testing went into its creation. The good far outweighed the not-so-good, so I'm a believer.

API Travel.

Here's something I received from the Animal Protection Institute that I found interesting:

Whether you are traveling for work or for pleasure, by booking all of your travel needs through, 40% of all commissions (there are no hidden costs or mark-ups passed on to you) will be donated to the Animal Protection Institute to help us further our mission of advocating for the protection of animals from cruelty and exploitation.

You can be assured you are getting competitive rates comparable to those of Expedia® and other similar travel engines, you’re booking your travel on a secure website with top-notch service, and you're helping animals! In addition, you can book vacation packages, cruises, group travel, concert/show tickets, order flowers, sign up for emailed Deals and Steals, and much more!

Don’t wait, book today! This innovative service is provided through a partnership with YTB Travel International, a leading provider of Internet travel services and publicly traded on NASDAQ.

Book today at and help API help animals.

I gave it a try, pretending to book a trip from Ottawa to Las Vegas (just an example from off the top of my head...ahem...) but it tells me that the departure has to be from the U.S. airport. Nuts.

Of course they swear to be competitive, and I can't speak on that part of it, but the next time you're planning a trip perhaps it's another option to look into.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hero To Animals

It's apparently Animal Action Week for the IFAW, which leads me to think...what makes that different than every other week for them?

Apparently one specific thing is that they ask for nomination for an Animal Hero. I received one of their newsletters earlier today, and they explain...

Animals do amazing things for us every day, from saving our lives to saving our sanity. There are also special people out there who return that kindness and who go the extra mile to help animals. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is looking for those people so that we can recognize their good work with an Animal Action Award.

Perhaps you know someone who cares for abandoned animals, or who campaigns tirelessly for animal welfare legislation. Maybe you know of an organization that donates time and money to an animal-related cause or an individual who brings animals and people together.

We want to recognize the work of these exceptional people and organizations, and would like you to tell us why they should receive this prestigious award.

Well, I don't "know" him, but I've seen some of his work and I thought I'd nominate the gentleman that we visited two weekends ago, Mr Andy Parent, owner of the Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary.

We came away impressed with his setup when we visited and it's obvious a great deal of effort goes into the operation. The newspaper article about him stated "About 350 animals have passed through here since 2002, more than 200 of which have been adopted and found new homes". Plus the dude had live wrestling there. Hard to top that.

The e-mail also mentioned past winners, which I found interesting:

· Guy Fitzgerald is a veterinarian dedicated to improving the care of raptors in Quebec. He is the founder of the Raptor Centre at the University of Montreal and the UQROP, a non-profit organization that rehabilitates and releases raptors.

· Eleven-year-old Celina Dawdy raised almost $10,000 to purchase protective vests for RCMP dogs in Alberta.

· Andrea Lemphers is one of the founders of the Humane Society Yukon and helped to open the territory’s first shelter. She also worked for amendments to the Yukon Animal Protection Act in 1998.

Good luck to Mr Parent! And if you know someone you'd like to nominate, you can do so by e-mail at this address.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Great News for Isaac and his Folks!

You may recall my previous posts about the Isaac Foundation. Good to see the government come through.

From the Globe and Mail:

The Ontario government has decided to fund a staggeringly expensive drug for Isaac McFadyen, the toddler whose parents were planning to move to England where the only treatment for his rare and progressive disease is funded.

Health Minister George Smitherman telephoned the boy's father, Andrew McFadyen, yesterday to say the province has decided to fund enzyme replacement therapy to treat the two-year-old boy's condition, known as Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome. The drug, Naglazyme, costs $300,000 to $1-million annually.

"This is life-changing for Isaac," Mr. McFadyen said yesterday. "It's going to provide him with potentially a very normal quality of life; it's going to halt the disease, and at best, it's going to reverse all the symptoms he is currently displaying."

Yesterday, David Spencer, spokesman for Mr. Smitherman, said the drug was accepted for funding after a clinical review was completed by members of Ontario's inherited metabolic diseases program. He said the Health Ministry was in a position to fund the drug only after this review.

"We have to make sure any decision is based on good science and a clinical recommendation," Mr. Spencer said yesterday. "That was possible in this case. . . . It's always a pleasure when we can come to this result."

People like Isaac are missing an enzyme needed to break down carbohydrates, which build up in the body's cells and affect many organs.

Signs of the disease include stunted growth, enlarged tonsils and adenoids that cause breathing problems, poor mobility and dramatic changes in facial features, including a flat nose and large head.

Once sufferers reach their teens, they often require heart-valve surgery. An estimated three to 10 Canadians suffer from the metabolic disorder, known as MPS VI.

The boy's plight was described in a Globe and Mail story that examined the absence of an orphan-drug policy in Canada to cover the high drug costs associated with rare diseases.

At the time, Mr. McFadyen, an elementary school teacher in Kingston, and his wife, Ellen Buck-McFadyen, a public-health nurse, felt they had no choice but to look for employment overseas to get treatment for their son.

But all that has changed. The couple now plan to stay in their dream home in Campbellford, Ont., and commute to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, where Isaac will receive treatment.

"This changes the course of his future," Mr. McFadyen said. "It's incredible, I can't believe it."

Nickel For Your Vote?

I just came back from grocery shopping a little while ago. Like a lot of people, when I'm in line, I try to work out in my head what my order will come to.

Here's what I was carrying in my mighty arms:

-A tin of PC Organic Coffee.
-A case of blueberries.
-A bar of Cacao Camino Organic Chocolate (dark w/almonds. No that it matters. But it's very good).
-A tube of toothpaste (Aquafresh. The orange one).
-A pack of 12 mini cinnamon rolls (Oscar really digs those).

I had the advantage of having seen the individual price tags, of course, but hadn't worked it all out as I went along.

When the total came to $17.01, I was pleasantly surprised! That's less than I thought! What minor miracle would have caused me to save all this money?

Oh, that's right! The GST was reduced! I worked it out (since not all the items are charged GST) and if not for that great show of generosity from our PM, I would have actually paid $17.06!

Much appreciated, Mr PM! That nickel is going to the deposit on the new house! I only need about 69,999 more and the second part of it will be taken care of! Or, after just four more similar trips, I can *gasp* use a pay phone! And it'll be almost like it was free! Yay!
Surfing various blogs this morning, I came across an old letter I'd seen some time ago, had meant to keep, then lost when my computer crashed a year and half ago. It doesn't qualify as a treehugging thing inthe environmental sense, but rather under the "tolerance" category. You may have seen it before.

Now I can't pretend to know for certain that all the bible passages listed below are accurate, but I think even if there's a touch of exaggeration the point gets well made anyway.

It's taken from the Green Canuck blog.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan,

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Mrs THIT and I hit what used to be a Bluesfest last night to see Live in concert. While touring the grounds, I noticed people dumping their plastic beer cups into grey cylinders included near the garbage cans and it occured to me that someone had come up with a very simple but effective method of increasing recycling efficiency.

The Ottawa Citizen apparently agreed because they had an article about it earlier that day that I hadn't seen.


Daniel Spence, a veteran volunteer at Bluesfest decided he had waded through the tens of thousands of cups and bottles carpeting the grounds of Bluesfest for long enough.

The festival goes through 200,000 beverage cups every year, and as the popularity of the event increases, so do the mounds of garbage. Mr. Spence got to work drafting and constructing a new invention: the "Cupsucker."

So simple, the word "invention" may seem like an overstatement, as the device is not much more than a modified PVC tube. Yet it's making a world of difference.

The 27-year-old Mr. Spence, whose day job is as community programs manager at the City of Ottawa EnviroCentre, said he was appalled at the lack of organization when it came to recycling and waste removal, not just at Bluesfest, but at all festivals. Bluesfest just happens to be the biggest.

"I was shocked by it. Even something as simple as recycling the beer cans. The only recycling that was done was by, shall we say, independent entrepreneurs who wanted the deposit money," he said.

According to Mr. Spence, one of the reasons festivals don't recycle is that recyclers themselves are hesitant to pick up the items because garbage is also pitched into the bins. So he went to the Bluesfest organizers directly and asked what they could do about the waste.

It turns out they could do a lot. Organizers agreed to finally implement recycling of all cans and plastic bottles (glass is not allowed on site) after Mr. Spence designed barrel lids with slots and stickers to let people know what is allowed in them.

But that still left more than 20,000 cups crunched on the ground every night, so Mr. Spence had an idea to use biodegradable cups.

"We go through a lot of cups here," said Nathalie Laperriere, the director of sponsorship at Bluesfest.

"We were worried that (biodegradable cups) would cost more, but I approached Molson and they agreed to supply us with compostable cups at no extra charge."

The cups, made by Greenware, have the same feel and look as regular clear plastic cups, but they are made of corn. When composted properly, they can break down completely in 45 days.

Despite this breakthrough, however, the plan still had one major hurdle to jump.

Goulbourn Sanitation agreed to take in the 200,000 cups from Bluesfest, but getting them to Stittsville was very expensive.

"Cups take up a lot of space," said Mr. Spence. "When you're going through that many cups, you have to empty your dumpster every day and it's just full of these big, puffy bags with a few hundred cups in each. We can't afford to do that with these cups."

To solve this problem, Mr. Spence took a trip to a home-renovation store, bought some length of PVC tubing and created 100-cup stackers he calls "Cupsuckers."

He has a website devoted to this invention at and has a patent pending.

The tube acts like a reverse Dixie cup dispenser. Customers drop the used cups into the top of the tube, where they are neatly stacked for volunteers -- or Mr. Spence's "Green Team" -- to come by and collect them from the barrels.

"I can't believe no one has thought of this before, it's so simple," Mr. Spence said.

"Just looking at it here, I can fit 10 stacks of 138 cups into each barrel. This is going to make transporting them so much easier."

Keeping with the green theme of the event, all the generators will be powered by biodiesel.

Executive director of Bluesfest, Mark Monahan, said although going green is great PR for the festival, it's not the primary motivation for him.

"We have always had issues with garbage. It's difficult for a festival like Bluesfest to be environmentally friendly, but we know it's not good to be throwing 200,000 cups into a landfill," Mr. Monahan said.

"It is a little more expensive because you can't just throw these cups anywhere, they have to be properly composted. But in the end, we think it's worth it."

Even Flow.

From The Canadian Press:

SEATTLE, Wash. (AP) - Pearl Jam has promised to donate $100,000 to several groups that focus on climate change, renewable energy and other environmental causes as part of an effort to offset carbon emissions the band churns out on tour.

"Our Carbon Portfolio Strategy is the newest component of our ongoing efforts to advance clean renewable energy and carbon mitigation," the Seattle-based band said in a statement posted on its Web site Tuesday.

Guitarist Stone Gossard said the group has been tracking its carbon emissions from vehicles used on tour and energy used in concert venues and hotels to estimate the band's contribution to global warming.

"We can get a really relatively accurate picture of what that looks like over a year, and it's a considerable amount of carbon," Gossard told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper in a backstage interview at a concert in Los Angeles. "We emitted about 5,000 tons of carbon on our last tour."

Cascade Land Conservancy and EarthCorps, which work to protect and replenish Puget Sound-area forests, are among nine organizations Pearl Jam picked to receive donations.

One of the donations, to IslandWood, an environmental education centre, will provide scholarships for children who cannot afford tuition, spokeswoman Marla Saperstein said.

The largest share of the group's donations will go to Conservation International, which does work in more than 40 countries.

Pearl Jam has aided other green causes in the past, including donating money to preserve a Madagascar rain forest to atone for environmental damage wrought by its last tour.

Monday, July 10, 2006

One Big Pig.

We never did get an official total on Arnold's weight, but we estimated somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds. Man, that is one big-ass pig. I've never seen one like that in person.

I mentioned below that Christine and I were heading to the Big Sky Ranch Woofstock Fundraiser. Nice little idea from Mrs THIT. We didn't bring the mascot, but we probably could have. Several people brought their dogs.

And damned if there wasn't wrestling after all! I thought it'd be a fake ring set up for kids to mess around in, or one of those deals where you dress up as a sumo wrestler and bump around with other people, but no! It was the good folks of Rage Wrestling Entertainment come to donate a little time to the cause! Good for them.

The gentleman running this whole thing appears to be doing an outstanding job. The animals seem clean and happy despite carrying around some stories of cruelty that would probably make your toes curl. We'll keep an ear to the ground for it next year as well.

Oh, and another thing! Remember how I mentioned below that I added my name to the list of people hoping to get a flag flown from the Peace Tower?

Well, I got a written response today! It includes the following:
Due to the large number of requests we receive, there is currently a long waiting list for Peace Tower flags. It make take approximately 17 years before we are able to honour your request.

That's okay, I'll wait. Can someone remind me in 2023?

The NBA Has Synthetic Balls.

Very nice! Now make squeak-free shoes and maybe my dad will start watching it! ;-) From a PETA newsletter...

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is opting to permanently bench leather balls in favor of better-performing, cruelty-free synthetic basketballs, like those already in use by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Women’s National Basketball Association, beginning with its 2006/2007 season!
It’s easy to moo-ve away from leather. In fact, Spalding Sports carries synthetic basketballs as well as volleyballs, softballs, soccerballs, and footballs.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Odds and Ends.

After some initial frustration with parking, Mrs THIT and I had a great time last weekend with the HBC Run for Canada. The Mrs signed up that morning and we basically took a stroll through a very attractive Jacques Cartier Park. The registration area was well laid out, as well as the food and merchandise tents, etc.

From there, the Mrs had a riveting Nascar race to watch, which was just as well since I had planned to attend a tailgate party at Frank Clair Stadium anyway. The football fan group of which I'm part had a great time on Canada Day last year, and though the team had the plug pulled on it (unfairly, I might add) we decided to recreate it nonetheless. One member brought a 26" inch TV and we watched last year's thrilling double-overtime 39-36 victory over Montreal.

The event being something of an unusual thing led to a newspaper article locally, and for one of my quotes to be butchered in newspapers in Calgary, Winnipeg and Regina. Ah well. Some media folks bitch about being blamed for misquoting, toying with context and such. My advice is this: Stop doing it, and you won't be blamed for it so much. See how that works?

Now then...It's a beautiful weekend in Ottawa and outdoorsy creature that she is, Mrs THIT wanted to be certain to make the most of it. She debated between various beaches and such...and settled on something neat called "Woofstock", an animal sanctuary.

Tickets are $12 for adults...There will be entertainment including live music, wrestling (!), ponyrides and hay rides.

I tried to get on their website but it wasn't available at the time. Reading the article, it occured to me that the Ross Muir mentioned therein is the brother of a friend of mine (does anyone remember a dude running in late during our wedding? That guy). All the more reason to attend.

Lastly, I have yet to ask Rona out. I'm sure you were all waiting for an update on that. I'm going to check movie times and settle on a couple of options. By the same token, I have yet to hear back in regards to my inquiry on her opinion on wind power. Imagine that.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Good Plan, Mickey.

A mouse rides on the back of a frog in floodwaters in the northern Indian city Lucknow June 30, 2006. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar (INDIA)