Sick Day

This is what I look like when I call in sick

I rarely call in sick. I have the kind of job where the spot I fill is critical to the shift. So in the last five years I have called in sick twice? As a manager I don't think I have ever called in sick. I've gone home early a few times, yes, but I showed up. Today I just couldn't do it. I've been fighting something all week that has me hitting the sack after dinner most nights. The blog has suffered, too. I have so many drafts in my edit interface and no energy to vamp them up to posting standard. I hope this changes soon. I just thought I'd update you. This will be over soon I hope and we can get back to normal. Whatever that is.

The Lad's Antics

A brief while ago I posted this picture...

...which was done to me by the Lad and is a reenactment of a demotivational poster. Good prank. I laughed. The other day I was looking at random images on the internet and found this picture...

...which was a variation on the toilet paper prank. The Lad laughed when I showed him and I said; "Hah! At least I can count on not finding this in the bathroom! It requires too much work!" First, I go to bed early, much earlier than the Lad. He needs less sleep than I do and he puts himself to bed when it's time. Second I wake up a lot during the night to visit the loo. So, on one of these visits, I found this:

Why yes, that IS a map in the magazine holder.
You got a problem with that?

At first it was my peripheral brain functions that noticed the sticky note on the TP. I thought maybe he had pulled the 'double empty' on me again. He has been known to work the same joke to death. But no, he actually carved a hole through the entire roll of TP. Took him several minutes. Using a steak knife. I'm sure he was cackling madly the whole time. I went down stairs to applaud his latest effort and we had a great laugh and he hugged me and told me he loved me. So yeah, all around a perfect moment.

The Welland Canal

The Welland Canal we see today is the fourth in a series of five canals, the fifth one is still a proposal.

I've spent a lot of time around the canals, especially Lock 1 in St. Catharines, Ontario, and never tired of the sight of a towering lake freighter navigating its way into a lock and easing up or down to the next level. The locks and canal are almost completely accessible to the pubic and many locks have viewing platforms for this purpose. It is entirely possible to stand on the edge of the canal and put your hand on a passing freighter and marvel as it glides silently by.

Only the end of the freighter with the engines is noisy and they are so long that most of the vessel passes you by in silence except for the rushing of water as the freighter displaces the water around it.

Construction on the current canal began in 1913 and was completed in 1932. The route was again changed north of St. Catharines, now running directly north to Port Weller. In this configuration, there are eight locks, seven at the Niagara Escarpment and the eighth, a guard lock, at Port Colborne to adjust with the varying water depth in Lake Erie. The depth was now 7.6 m (25 ft), with locks 233.5 m (766 ft) long by 24.4 m (80 ft) wide. This canal is officially known now as the Welland Ship Canal. [wiki]

The Canal path bypassing the Niagara River and Falls

Profile of the Welland Canal
Daniel M. Short
The mechanics that go into moving these huge vessels is simple in the extreme. Locks are just big boxes with valves. One to allow water in and one to allow water out.

...locks lift and lower with the help of gravity and large quantities of water. The force of gravity is used to fill or drain a lock moving about 20 million gallons of water in about 11 minutes. It is this movement of water that actually lifts or lowers a ship in a lock. The force of gravity is so strong that it draws this water a distance of 27 miles from lake Erie to Lake Ontario filling and draining the 8 locks in between. [source]

When the water starts being released from a lock, the churning water is an awesome thing to behold. It affects the level of water in the channel far down stream and it attracts gulls hoping for a quick catch of fish that have been caught in the maelstrom. I would have included a video of this but nobody but me seems to think this is an interesting aspect of the lock system. My videos are packed in boxes in the garage still. So we're out of luck.

Besides recreational craft and the occasional fleet of tall ships, the type of ship mainly using the locks are ocean going freighters and what we call 'lakers'. The lakers are the largest vessel to use the locks. They are manufactured to fit the locks as tightly as possible and give the captain about a foot on each side of the boat for maneuvering. If this sounds a bit like threading a needle, you're right. There is virtually no room for error sideways or end to end as there isn't much room that way either.

Ocean going vessel Photo: Steven Gardiner

Ocean going freighter

Besides size and flag of origin (one of my favourite things to catch sight of while watching ships in the lock), the difference between ocean and lake vessels is the bow. Ocean vessels have a sharp, curved bow for slicing waves and lakers are blunt nosed.

Most sailors on the vessels seem as curious about onlookers as we are about them and completely at ease answering questions about what they're carrying. Nearly always the answer had some relationship to mining and/or steel fabrication.

Laker Photo: Stephanie Fysh

Laker approaches raised bridge under Garden City Skyway

Lock 1 at Lake Ontario and beside Port Weller Dry Docks
Laker in lock 2
Note the lift bridge is up and the line up of cars waiting

If you notice the surrounding countryside here at Lock 2 you'll see a residential area with mature trees. The canal takes vessels through residential areas like this, quiet vineyards and farmland dotted with dairy cows. It was always entertaining to be sitting on a picnic table at Avondale Dairy H/O eating an ice cream cone in the middle of Niagara farmland and watching a freighter sailing placidly by like it was a really big neighbourhood cow out for a clandestine stroll.

Leisure craft eye view inside the lock. You can see the high water line on the gates

Locks 4, 5 and 6 are called the Flight Locks because they're arranged one after the other like a flight of stairs. There are two lanes for ship traffic and it's very dramatic. 

Flight Locks

Flight Locks

Flight Locks
The Welland Canal closes in winter (January–March) when ice or weather conditions become a hazard to navigation. The shipping season re-opens in spring when the waters are once again safe. And yes, you don't want to be on the wrong side of the lock system when things close down for the winter or you're stuck.

Here is a cool link to a navigation map where you can see exactly where there are ships on the St Lawrence-Great Lakes Seaway. There are tabs to get details about where there are ships in the Welland Canal, what their names are, destinations and last point of call.

[update: a reader thought this might be an interesting addition to this post]
On 11 August 2001, a laker (Windoc) collided with a lift bridge when the operator accidentally lowered the bridge before the ship cleared. Damage was done to the wheel house and funnel but there were no reported injuries to the crew or damage to the cargo.

Here are two videos focusing on navigating the lock system. The first one is a complete trip staring at Lock 8 at Lake Erie to Lock 1 at St. Catharines on Lake Ontario. The second is a closer look at a ship in a lock. Both are time lapsed. Enjoy!

Fresh Water Shark

[edit: One of my favourite subjects - shark related injuries and falities in fresh water - getting a replay]

No, there are no true 'man' eating freshwater sharks. However, the bull shark will leave the ocean and travel up fresh water rivers and end up inland. So far inland that getting eaten by a shark while catching a quick swim in a freshwater body of water is probably the last thing you would be thinking about.

Oh hai!  Fresh water is....refreshing!

The 'people getting eaten by sharks in fresh water' happened a long time ago in 1916. That was the last century! It was a series of shark attacks along the coast of New Jersey between July 1 and July 12, in which four people were killed and one injured. Here is an interesting article on the details and timeline of this shark story.

Since then, the people who debate such things have argued about what type of shark could have done this and the bull shark is most frequently blamed although there are pictures purported to be of the shark that was responsible and it's a great white. Which means there was another shark attacking people and since great whites can't survive in fresh water for long, my money is on the bull shark they didn't catch.

And blah blah, yada yada, sharks don't normally attack humans...there were extenuating circumstances. The attacks occurred during a deadly summer heat wave and polio epidemic in the northeastern United States that drove thousands of people to the seaside resorts of the Jersey Shore. Scholars believe that the increased presence of sharks and humans in the water led to the attacks in 1916. Really scholars? More people and more sharks in the water together lead to the attacks in 1916? I'm no scholar but I could have come with that little bit of wisdom.

A while ago I posted a video about a golf course in Australia that had bull sharks in one of their water features. They got washed into the mini lake during a flood and have been thriving there ever since. Bull sharks don't even need to visit their salt water home to refresh apparently.

Golf course water trap, now with real sharks!

Only three types of sharks are known to consistently attack humans. Great White, Tiger and Bull sharks. Whites and tigers get all the publicity but the lesser known Bull sharks are the most dangerous sharks in the world, according to many experts and me. This is because they're an aggressive species of shark, and they tend to hunt in waters where people often swim: along tropical shorelines. Yeah, what about the whole swimming up fresh water rivers and ending up thousands of miles into the interior of South America via the Amazon? To me, this makes them the most dangerous because you're not safe in salt or fresh water. At least I know where I can find a great white, or more importantly where I'm not going to find a great white, ya know what I'm saying? Also the bull shark is the expert ambush hunter, attacking in remote places and many of the injured people, not recognizing  they have been bitten by a shark, attribute their injury to other water dwelling meat eating predators normally found in the area. Like, I don't know, alligator snapping turtles maybe.

Other sharks must keep salt in their bodies but bull sharks have developed special adaptations—the way their kidneys function and special glands near their tails—that help them keep salt in their bodies even when they're in freshwater. Scientists are still studying these sharks to figure out why they developed this unusual ability.   

Humans are not on their diet, they mainly eat fish but we all know sharks will eat a suit of armour if they're inclined so I disregard the diet list.

Bull sharks will head butt their prey before biting it and that's what earned them the "bull" designation. Also their wide faces and far apart eyes give them a bovine appearance. Really? OK. A head butting technique is more goat-like, I think. And they eat anything. Goat shark seems an apt name.

Goat shark

Bull sharks can grow from 7 to 11.5 feet (2.1 to 3.4 meters) in length.

Bull sharks can weigh between 200 and 500 pounds (90 and 230 kilograms).

When it's warm, some bull sharks swim as far north as Massachusetts. Got any rivers emptying into the ocean in Massachusetts? Just wondering...

The bull shark is known by several other names but oddly, the can-eating, head-butting, goat shark is not one of them.

There are about 375 species of sharks. The three kinds of sharks that are most likely to attack humans are the bull shark, the great white shark, and the tiger shark. Me? I'm not afraid of great white sharks. Or tiger sharks. That's because I don't swim in salt water. Anymore. Bull sharks are on my top five list of things to fear.

And here I am high fiving who I'll eat next!

Bull sharks are not on the endangered species list. However people fish for bull sharks for food, for their hides, and for oils. Researchers believe that their populations may be shrinking.  Don't cry for them, people.  

My next adaptation will be
puddles and bathtubs!

Nunavut is Sad

We're happy and we wear plaid, I guess
*makes note to buy plaid shirt*

In a recent survey by The Centre for the Study of Living Standards (clearly a Canadian company judging by the spelling of "centre") it was found that more than 90% of Canadians are happy. The Centre studied statistics between 2003-2011 and we have stayed happy throughout that entire time.

This score was enough to put us at number two on the happy list, second after Denmark. Denmark is happy? Who knew. Centre executive director Andrew Sharpe explains some of the reasons why we're generally happy:

"We do have high levels of income. We have weathered the financial crisis better than other countries of the world. We do have a good health system. We complain about it, but at least there's full coverage of all Canadians ... We do have a lot of advantages as a country."

What financial crisis? I kid, I kid! I read the news sometimes.

Nova Scotia: happiest
Nunavut: unhappiest

In an interesting trend seen above, Nunavut is the unhappiest part of Canada. This squares completely with The Atheist Granny's take on Canadian provinces and territories in her "An American Tries to Learn About Canada" series. Here is her article on Nunavut.

Justin Trudeau
Also there is most likely going to be another Trudeau in politics. For many, the name Pierre Trudeau is synonymous with Canadian politics. He was as much a celebrity as he was politician. His son Justin is flirting with the idea of running for the Liberal Party leadership. (That would be a loose approximation of the US's Democratic party but really in Canada our conservative party approximates your more liberal party. By the US's standards, most of us Canadians would be left wing lunatics but at least we're all happy) [Update October 2015: In a surprising upset, Justin Trudeau has been elected Canada's Prime Minister and a Liberal majority government.]

Below, a retrospective of finer Trudeau moments.

Good times

Frimmy, The Bumbling Humahn

Everyone else's house

My house, sort of [photo acquired here]

I sometimes wish my alien overlords would grow weary of the silly games they play on me for laughs. I am the bumblingest, clumsiest mess maker there is and I know it's their fault. I start out to do something simple like grab a square of paper towel and while I use the energy needed to tear off an entire piece, only a corner of the paper personally grasped by my fingers comes away. Over and over. Until I step up to the paper towel holder, grasp the roll in one hand and tear with the other. Even then, there are no guarantees for a pristine perfect square.

Right now I have these 'dial-a-sheet', loser, paper towels. The kind where you only pull off what you need. The sheets are perforated in tiny, useless lengths that you would use to wipe up a drop of tea and you're supposed to be able to tear off what you need in smaller or larger lengths. Right. First, I don't make small messes. Only large, extra large, jumbo and bloody apocalypse sized messes. So naturally these sheets tear off at the 'one drop of tea ladylike mess' size. Today I was trying to clean the debris off my stove top - a good five sheet sized mess - and they came off the roll in predictable increments of one. When I attempted to ball the five separate sheets up in to one big wad, they dropped two at a time into the sink. My idea was to use one to wrap the others. The aliens were disinclined to assist with that. Wad three, drop two. Pick up two, two others drop while picking up the other two. I admit I lost my patience with that situation but the bottom line is the debris was removed. And dropped on the floor. Where I should have just thrown it since everything ends up there anyway.

This happens at work in a different way. We used industrial paper towle rolls. The kind made of tenderized, brown, paper bags. A length of paper towel will tear away in two different malicious ways. The tiny hunk that my fingers are touching tears away or, and this is hilarious for the bakers and the alien overlords, a strip will start to tear and continue to rip up the centre of the roll until I grow tired of the game. Then I will step up to the dispenser, hold on to the base paper towel roll and tear away only what my fingers are holding.

Laugh it up, aliens. I refuse to lose my patience. Recently I attempted to make egg salad sandwiches and failed every step of the way, but did I end up with egg salad sandwiches? Yes. So FU alien overlords.

Just now I started making ceasar salad dressing when I realized I was out of vegetable oil. I had made it into mayo from my egg salad making episode of doom. So I thought I'd use the mayo for the dressing. Same ingredients so why not? Well naturally - literally, naturally because I didn't use a whole lot of preservatives like the commercial brands do - the mayo was bad. So when I went to get rid of it, using a spoon to plop it into the sink with the intention of diluting it with hot water and rinsing it down the drain, the bowl of the spoon was angled just right and it turned the stream of water from the tap into a rooster tail of bad mayo and water arching across the kitchen and all over the floor. 

Grab paper towels one square inch at a time...and the cycle begins again.

Scary Public Service Ad

 An excellent point and very well made.

A Thank You For All The Encouragement!

Who said the internet is vacuous hole of loneliness, trolls and flame wars? No, really, who said that? [hint: my cousin]

You may not know it but there is a hidden and bountiful undercurrent of encouragement from countless commenters whose offerings are sadly relegated to the spam file. All of them include a link to something obtusely related to the topic and some of them even include the notification that they have back linked to my blog [blah blah Don't know. Should I care?]

In fact if it weren't for comment notifications originating from these lovely, anonymous, conveyers of goodwill, I'd hardly get any notifications at all. So that's why I love them. Their posts inflate my inbox with notifications allowing me to have the illusion that I am not alone in this world, dammit.

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Well thank you! I said there was a green beach in Hawaii and that's about it but I appreciate your enthusiasm. No, I do not wish to visit your movie site.

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You will be experiencing Papakolea? Now, you're just showing off, go away! 

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Picture Dump

Ray Caesar

Lackadaisy Cats

Shaded Camel thorn trees in Namib-Naukluft Park.
Back drop is a huge sand dune illuminated by the morning sun.

I remember these days so well

It's the lamp on the back that made me love this

Hard working students have to catch their z's somewhere

I want to be BFF's with this mom

Lad: [little girl squeal] It's a sugar glider!!!!
Me: OK. I have no idea what that is but they seem small

Totally shopped food bowl ain't gettin' any fuller
Whill Whhheaton can laugh at himself

What's that? Jessie and Prospector are trapped in the old abandoned mine
and Prospector just lit a stick of dynamite thinking it was a candle and
now they're about to be blown to smithereens?

Chameleons! I know. You've seen this before


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